Drug giant GlaxoSmithKline made news official what had been rumored for months: CEO Andrew Witty is going to retire. Witty plans to step down a year from now. However, he says his decision is not linked to investor calls for breakup of the company.
Witty, who is 51 and is a longtime GSK veteran, dismissed talk that investor pressure led to his decision, which was announced early Thursday in London.
“Absolutely, you should not make that linkage,” Witty told Reuters.
“I can tell you the board is unanimously committed to the strategy and the structure of the group.”
Witty has served as CEO since 2008 after winning a protracted battle for leadership of the London-based company.
As for future plans, Witty said he is likely to remain involved in healthcare.
“I did a deal with myself that I wouldn’t start thinking about that until much nearer the time that I actually leave the company because I don’t want to dilute my energies for GSK this year,” he explained to Reuters.
“I will probably do something in the healthcare arena in some regard but I haven’t thought that through.”
The search for a successor comes amid months of pressure from some investors, who had wanted the diverse company to be broken up.
The company said in a statement that Witty believes “this will be the right time for a new leader to take over.” The move is effective in March 2017.
Citing media reports in the U.K., WRAL TechWire reported last month that GSK had launched a search for a successor.
“GSK is a very special company with an inspiring mission and many dedicated people,” Witty said in a statement.
“By next year, I will have been CEO for nearly ten years and I believe this will be the right time for a new leader to take over. In making this decision it has been important to me that the Board have the time to conduct a full and proper process and that we sustain the momentum of our current business performance, capitalising on the very significant progress we made last year to strengthen the Group. By doing so we will strongly position GSK to achieve the medium-term outlook set out to investors last year and deliver a return to core earnings growth in 2016.”
Like many big pharmaceutical companies, GSK has struggled to see off the challenge of generic drugmakers and come up with new blockbuster drugs to replace medicines with expiring patents.
It has also faced other challenges. Britain’s competition authority has fined GSK 37.6 million pounds ($54.5 million) for stalling the potential entry of generic competitors of anti-depressant drug Seroxat into the marketplace.
GSK employs several thousand people in the Triangle area, including at a production plant in Zebulon and a research campus in RTP.
The bio: Sir Andrew Witty
Andrew became Chief Executive Officer of GlaxoSmithKline plc on 21 May 2008. He is a member of the Board and Corporate Executive Team.
Andrew joined Glaxo in 1985 and has held a variety of Sales and Marketing roles in the UK and abroad including working in the Company’s International New Products groups, both in the Respiratory and HIV/Infectious disease fields. Outside of the UK Andrew has worked in South Africa, the USA and Singapore where he led the Group’s operations as Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific. While in Singapore Andrew was a Board Member of the Singapore Economic Development Board and the Singapore Land Authority. In 2003 he was awarded the Public Service Medal by the Government of Singapore and in August 2012 was also awarded the Public Service Star.
In 2003 Andrew was appointed President of GSK Europe and joined GSK’s Corporate Executive Team.
Andrew has served in numerous advisory roles to Governments around the world including South Africa, Singapore, Guangzhou China and the UK, where he was a member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group from 2010 – 2015. He was awarded a Knighthood for services to the economy and to the UK pharmaceutical industry in the 2012 New Year Honours List. In 2014, Andrew was appointed to be a Business Ambassador for the UK Government and in 2015, Andrew became a member of the China-Britain Business Council Advisory Council.
Andrew is Chancellor of the University of Nottingham, a position he took up on 1 January 2013.
Andrew has a Joint Honours BA in Economics from the University of Nottingham.