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Walmsley steps up to chief executive role at GSK

The firm's first female CEO, she takes over from Sir Andrew Witty

Emma Walmsley

Emma Walmsley is due to take over as chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) today as Sir Andrew Witty officially steps down from the role, opening up a new chapter for the group and the pharma industry.

Walmsley becomes the first female CEO at GSK - and the first woman to head up a Big Pharma group - after a six-month handover process which began last September in the wake of Sir Andrew announcing his retirement plans.

She previously led GSK's Consumer Healthcare business, and GSK's annual report notes that her "leadership skills, history of delivering growth and driving performance and fresh thinking" made her an ideal choice to take on the task. She stands out among the CEOs of leading pharma multinationals as a consumer brand specialist rather than a prescription drug expert.

The new CEO will be paid around 25% less than her predecessor however, according to GSK's annual report. The company "takes into account that this is Emma's first CEO role", although it goes on to say this will be "under review in the coming years subject to her development and performance in the role".

Walmsley has a base salary of around £1m, a 10% reduction compared to Sir Andrew's leaving salary but above his £850,000 base 10 years ago when he took on the role (also as a first-time CEO). She will have a "significantly lower" pension benefit according to the report, which estimates her total package this year should be around £3.8m.

The new CEO has been given an early gift as she steps into the role by the FDA, which just rejected Mylan's application to market a generic version of GSK's big-selling respiratory drug Advair Diskus (fluticasone/salmeterol) in the US, delaying what is likely to be a hefty impact on the blockbuster drug's sales this year.

Meanwhile, GSK has marked Sir Andrew's retirement with a new 10-year scholarship fund - financed by the company and run by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine - that will try to address health challenges in the developing world.

All told, the scheme will fund 30 scholarships to applicants from sub-Saharan Africa who will study in London towards a one-year Master's degree on a health topic such as infectious disease control or global mental health, with tuition fees and a tax-free living allowance provided by GSK.

Article by
Phil Taylor

31st March 2017

From: Sales

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