GlaxoSmithKline names insider Emma Walmsley as new CEO

Tue Sep 20, 2016 6:10am EDT
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By Ben Hirschler

LONDON (Reuters) - GlaxoSmithKline said on Tuesday it had chosen its head of consumer healthcare, Emma Walmsley, as its new chief executive, after several months reviewing internal and external candidates.

She will become the first woman to head a top global pharmaceutical company and will bring the number of female chief executives in Britain's FTSE 100 index to seven.

Walmsley, 47, joined Britain's biggest drugmaker in 2010 from L’Oreal and will replace Andrew Witty, who had previously announced his decision to retire on March 31, 2017. She will join the board from January.

The decision will disappoint investors such as Neil Woodford, a top shareholder and a critic of the drugmaker's current structure, who wanted to see an outsider appointed to overhaul the company.

However, Walmsley had always been tipped as a strong internal candidate, along with pharmaceuticals boss Abbas Hussain and manufacturing head Roger Connor.

Her appointment is likely to be seen as a signal that GSK will retain the consumer business as a core part of its operations, rather than splitting up the company.

"Choosing Emma Walmsley suggests a strategy of evolution rather than revolution," Joe Walters, senior portfolio manager at Royal London Asset Management, one of GSK’s 30 largest investors, told Reuters.

"A big change in the firm’s corporate structure is less likely, but any worries about a reduction in Glaxo’s attractive dividend payments should recede."   Continued...

Emma Walmsley of  GlaxoSmithKline poses in this undated photograph released in London on September 20, 2016. Courtesy of GlaxoSmithKline/Handout via REUTERS