GlaxoSmithKline weighs RBS chair to replace board chief Gent

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Sir Christopher Gent

The parade of new pharma board chairs is growing longer. GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) is reportedly eyeing Sir Philip Hampton, now chairman at Royal Bank of Scotland, to take up where Sir Christopher Gent leaves off next year, according to the London Evening Standard.

Hampton's potential appointment follows Monday's news that Roche ($RHHBY) wooed away Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz to fill its soon-to-be-vacant chairman's seat. Just a couple of months ago, Novartis ($NVS) welcomed its new chairman, Joerg Reinhardt, who rejoined the Swiss drugmaker after a stint at Bayer HealthCare.

There's been something of a changing of the guard, chairmanship-wise, in Europe's biggest pharma companies over the past couple of years. Before this most recent trio of appointments came AstraZeneca's ($AZN) selection, Leif Johannson, former Ericsson chair and Volvo CEO; he helped scout Roche's Pascal Soriot to take over as CEO. And earlier this year, Novo Nordisk ($NVO) elevated Göran Ando, its vice chairman, to the top seat.

In the U.S., it's more common for CEOs to also hold the board chair--for example, Pfizer's ($PFE) newest chairman is Ian Read, who was elected in December 2011, almost a year after after he took over as CEO. In Europe, the dual office is less common. Daniel Vasella, who served as CEO and chairman of Novartis until his retirement earlier this year, famously defended the joint job in the face of criticism from shareholders and activists.

GSK has been scouting for a new chairman since last October, when Gent said he planned to step down. As the London newspaper notes, Hampton just installed a new CEO at RBS, so he's unlikely to leave right away, but Gent isn't planning to step down right away, either. Glaxo has its hands full with recently approved drugs--and a corruption investigation in China--so Hampton wouldn't have a shortage of challenges in the new role.

- read the Evening Standard story

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