GSK names Julie Brown, a 25-year AstraZeneca veteran, its first woman CFO

Five years ago, GSK made headlines when it hired Emma Walmsley to become the first woman to run a major pharmaceutical company. Now the Big Pharma has brought in another woman to control the company’s finances.

Julie Brown will be GSK’s next chief financial officer. Brown, currently the chief operating and financial officer at fashion and beauty brand Burberry Group, is set to replace Iain Mackay.

Mackay, who will depart in May of 2023, joined the British drugmaker in 2018 and guided the spinoff of GSK’s consumer health unit, Haleon, which wrapped up in July. Mackay also helped the company pull off a few key acquisitions designed to bolster its pipeline. The moves have helped stave off investor upheaval, triggered by concerns about the company’s future.

“He has played a very significant role to help deliver the reshaping of GSK and to improve our operating and financial performance,” Walmsley said of Mackay, in a release.

Unlike CEO Walmsley, who arrived at GSK after 17 years at beauty powerhouse L’Oreal, Brown comes to the company with extensive pharma industry experience. Before her 2017 move to Burberry, she served for 25 years at AstraZeneca, followed by three years as CFO at British medical technology firm Smith+Nephew. With the move to GSK, Brown steps down from the board at Swiss pharma Roche.

“Julie is a highly experienced CFO with a tremendous understanding of the biopharma sector,” Walmsley said. “We also share a strong passion for people development, diversity, inclusion and sustainability.”

Brown will receive a base salary of £915,335 ($993,400), plus the potential for an annual bonus of the same amount and a long-term incentive award of £1.83 million ($1.99 million), figures which match the compensation package of Mackay.

Brown's hire comes after GSK's crosstown rival AstaZeneca brought in Aradhana Sarin, M.D., to serve as its first female CFO in 2021. Eli Lilly also has a woman CFO in Anat Ashkenazi.

Earlier this year, GSK announced the departure of four-year chief scientific officer Hal Barron, who took over as CEO of a biotech startup.