GlaxoSmithKline gets AstraZeneca to finally release former executive Miels, in two more months

AstraZeneca has reached an agreement with GlaxoSmithKline that will allow former European business head Luke Miels to take the top pharma job with its competitor in September.

Six months after accepting a job with GlaxoSmithKline, former AstraZeneca executive Luke Miels has learned he will finally get to take on his new duties—just not until September.

GSK indicated that it has reached an agreement with its U.K. peer, Reuters reports, and that Miels will start on Sept. 4 as president of its pharma division. A GSK spokeswoman confirmed the report but said the company would not disclose terms of the settlement.  

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AstraZeneca had sued after Miels gave notice in January, seeking an order to force him to “abide by the terms of his contract of employment.”  He was executive vice president of AstraZeneca’s European business.

Miels was recruited by Emma Walmsley, who took over as GSK’s CEO only in April. With R&D and commercial experience from stints at AstraZeneca, Roche and Sanofi, Miels is seen as a key appointment given that her experience is in marketing and consumer products. Some investors have grumbled that her experience is not sufficiently deep on the branded drug side, a division that accounted for about £15 billion ($19.1 billion) in sales, more than half of its 2016 revenues of £27.9 billion ($35.5 billion).

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Miels will have his hands full when he finally gets to GSK. This may be the year that its top-selling Advair succumbs to generic competition, which the company has said could trim about 45% in sales off the $2.3 billion respiratory drug.  

The company also has one of the lowest R&D budgets in terms of percentage of revenue among its peers, with much of its late-stage work focused on vaccines and respiratory after trading off much of its late-stage and marketed cancer assets to Novartis a few years back.