With pharma-consumer split in its sights, GSK hands chairman seat to Symonds

Jonathan Symonds
Jonathan Symonds is set to become GlaxoSmithKline's chief financial officer Sept. 1. (HSBC)

Ahead of a massive consumer health spinoff, GlaxoSmithKline’s chairman search is over. The company Wednesday named ex-Novartis and AstraZeneca Chief Financial Officer Jonathan Symonds as its next chairman, effective Sept. 1. 

That means GSK’s current chairman Sir Philip Hampton, who's been in the post since 2015 and managed the drugmaker during a turbulent time, is set to step down Aug. 31.

But as Symonds sees it, he's assuming the role at an important time as well. The company is seeking to “create value from its new R&D approach," he said in a statement, and plans to “create two, new world-leading companies," one focused on pharma and vaccines and the other on consumer health.

GSK and Pfizer in December announced they’re forming a consumer health joint venture—the biggest in the field—and planning to spin it off within three years.

Symonds’ appointment isn't a huge surprise; earlier this month, the Financial Times reported the drugmaker had selected him for the post. At the time, a GSK representative told FiercePharma the company would make an announcement “in due course.”

GSK's incoming chairman served as Novartis’ CFO from 2009 to 2013, overseeing the company’s Alcon buyout during the stint. He was AstraZeneca's CFO from 1998 to 2007 and stepped down after the drugmaker named David Brennan its CEO. He's currently a deputy chairman at HSBC, a role he intends to relinquish in February 2020.  

Symonds has "exceptional experience in life sciences, and in the financial management and governance of major, global companies,” Vindi Banga, who heads up the GSK's nomination committee, said in a statement. He's "demonstrated a passion for science, and is known for his integrity and professionalism" as well, Banga added. He'll earn £700,000 per year in the post, £525,000 in cash and the rest in GSK shares.

GSK's outgoing chairman Hampton said earlier this year he intended to step down to “allow a new chair to oversee” the Pfizer consumer healthcare partnership and split off.  

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