Management Reshuffle at GlaxoSmithKline

12.01.2018 -

A management reshuffle at the UK’s largest drugmaker, GlaxoSmithKline has caught the market’s attention, especially as it was carried through by closely watched CEO Emma Walmsley, who took over from Andrew Witty in spring 2017 as the first woman to run a major pharmaceutical company.

Commentators said the shakeup was sorely needed to rejuvenate the company’s sagging pipeline and make its pharmaceuticals division more profitable.

Walmsley acknowledged in an interview that Glaxo needs to change its culture and move at a quicker pace.

In her first major move, last July, the new CEO announced an R&D revamp. This week, she grabbed headlines by replacing 50 managers, in total 40% of the company’s top management. The overhaul spans the businesses, from consumer to oncology, and includes hires from both inside and outside Glaxo, including recruits from companies such as Novartis, Teva and Google, the trade journal Fierce Pharma noted.

Some of the newcomers were poached from other drugmakers, such as Luke Miels who worked for one of the British company’s fiercest rivals, AstraZeneca. Miels will to head pharmaceuticals and Hal Barron from Roche/Genentech will be chief scientific officer.

Two veteran of Novartis, Tobias Hestler and Christine Roth, have been named CFO of GSK’s consumer drugs and oncology unit, respectively. Lisa Martin is moving from ailing Israeli drugmaker Teva to the British player. Tony Wood is moving from Pfizer to be part of his new employer’s R&D team.

In her new job, Roth will be tasked with steering the search for early-stage oncology drugs to beef up the Glaxo pipeline. In July, following up on Walmsley’s plans, announced in July, to shift shifting the research focus tprespiratory disorders, infectious disease, cancer and inflammatory disease.

GSK has also created the new position of chief digital officer, which will be filled by  Karenann Terrell,  former chief information officer at Walmart.  Terrell will be  charged with using new technology in data analytics and cloud computing to speed up drug development. Former Google manager Marc Speichert will fill the role of  chief digital officer in the consumer drugs unit.

In an interview during the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, 

Walmsley said the path forward will be “all about R&D and preparing for the next wave of growth for GSK in the 2020s and beyond.”

Asked by CNBC whether GSK might consider buying Pfizers over-the-counter business, which has been up for sale since October, the chief executive commented that the company “doesn’t need to do this deal,” and “we certainly won’t overpay for it. Number one priority, she said, is building a pipeline the company’s pharma business.

According to analysts at Bloomberg Intelligence, GSK has long held the title of Britain’s biggest pharmaceutical company, but due to its deteriorating share price it now risks being overtaken in market value by AstraZeneca Plc.

When Pascal Soriot took over as CEO of Astra Zeneca in late 2012, the Anglo-Swedish drugmaker’s market value trailed Glaxo’s by almost £35 billion, Bloomberg said. Today, the difference is about £1 billion.