- Gilead's longtime finance chief Robin Washington plans to step down next spring, retiring from a role she's held at the biotech for more than a decade.
- A search for a successor is underway, Gilead said in an April 30 statement, and has agreed to remain in an advisory capacity through the company's reporting of 2019 results should a replacement be named before her expected departure date of March 1, 2020.
- Washington joined Gilead in 2008, years before the biotech's commercial successes in hepatitis C. Over her 11-year stint at the Foster City, California-based company, revenues grew from just over $5 billion to a peak of $32 billion in 2015.
With Washington's planned departure, Gilead will lose another veteran member of its senior management, which has seen significant changes over the past year.
Her exit also poses a challenge for the biotech's newly instituted CEO Daniel O'Day, who took over as company head in March.
"Robin is an outstanding leader and it comes as no surprise that she has agreed to remain with Gilead through the completion of the company’s reporting of 2019 financial results," O'Day said in a statement on Washington's planned retirement.
O'Day will publicly address Gilead investors for the first time tomorrow, when the company reports first quarter earnings.
A biotech in transition
|Departing executive||Date of departure||Gilead tenure||Successor?|
|Norbert Bischofberger, chief scientific officer||April 2018||28 years||John McHutchison|
|Andrew Cheng, chief medical officer||September 2018||19 years||Unnamed|
|John Milligan, CEO||December 2018||28 years||Daniel O'Day|
|John Martin, board chairman||March 2019||28 years||Daniel O'Day|
|Alessandro Riva, head of oncology||March 2019||2 years||Search in progress|
|Robin Washington, CFO||March 2020||11 years||Search in progress|
SOURCE: Company releases
Departures from Gilead's C-suite aren't entirely unexpected, as the company transitions away from its recent reliance on its hepatitis C drugs and bets on new markets, like arthritis and cancer.
CEO successions also usually bring change, although Gilead has emphasized Alessandro Riva's recent decision to leave the company was not tied to O'Day.
"No surprise in our discussions [with] investors though as [Gilead] undergoes lots of change and starts anew," wrote Jefferies analyst Michael Yee in a note to investors.
Still, the string of executive exits does create some upheaval in Gilead's top ranks just as the company works to reshape its business.
Revenues from hepatitis C drugs like Harvoni (ledipasvir/sofosbuvir) have fallen dramatically in recent years, weighing on Gilead as a whole. The biotech hopes sales stabilize this year, leaving a foundation for the company to build upon with its leading HIV business and new bets in arthritis, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and oncology.
In cancer, Gilead's research efforts are largely centered on cell therapy and the CAR-T portfolio it acquired in an $11.9 billion deal for Kite Pharma.
Elsewhere, the biotech has had mixed results. Two Phase 3 studies of its lead NASH drug, selonsertib, have failed in recent months, ceding Gilead's leading position in the fast-growing research space to companies like Intercept Pharmaceuticals.
In inflammatory disease, Gilead has done better, positing strong late-stage data for a drug — filgotinib — it hopes can become a blockbuster therapy.
As CFO, Washington hasn't played a role in the development of those efforts in the clinic. But she has provided stability and financial oversight to support Gilead's research expansion, such as in financing the Kite acquisition.
Washington, along with Gilead executives John McHutchison and Gregg Alton, last year received performance-based cash retention awards as part of a program Gilead put in place to help ease the CEO transition process.
In 2018, Washington earned $6.3 million in total compensation.
On Tuesday, Google parent Alphabet announced Washington would join its board of directors on April 25.