- GlaxoSmithKline on Thursday announced its CEO Andrew Witty will retire in March 2017 and the previously hinted search for his successor will now begin formally. GSK's board of directors will consider both internal and external candidates for the role.
- Witty has been with GSK since 1985, and has served as CEO since May 2008. Recently, he has fought off calls from prominent U.K. investor Neil Woodford to break up GSK into four separate companies.
- As CEO, Witty oversaw the multibillion dollar asset swap with Novartis in 2014, in which GSK sold its oncology business to Novartis while buying the Swiss company's vaccines business.
- However, GSK's reputation suffered from a high profile doctor bribery scandal in 2012 while under Witty's watch. The company recently stopped paying doctors speaking fees to promote its products.
Announced in GSK's 2015 annual report, Witty's planned retirement date gives GSK a little over a year to find a successor to the long-tenured CEO.
"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," Witty said in a statement. He emphasized the next year would give the board enough time to conduct a full search and ensure GSK continues on last year's progress.
GSK paid Witty a total of £6.6 million last year in total remuneration, with £2.17 million coming in his annual bonus.
The drugmaker earned about £14.2 in revenue from its pharmaceuticals business last year, a 7% (CER) decline from 2014. Led by its asthma drug Advair, GSK's respiratory product line remained the leading pharmaceutical category.
In calling for GSK to break up, Woodford has argued the company's consumer health, HIV, and dermatology units should be spun off. Although Witty indicated in January consumer health could conceivably be divested in the future, he has resisted breaking off other units.