Wednesday, May 02, 2007

GSK's War of Succession

It's GlaxoSmithKline's turn to find a new chief executive, after incumbent JP Garnier retires next May. Apparently there's no shortage of internal candidates: three senior executives are battling for the position, according to the UK's Daily Telegraph.

Like a roman emperor--or, a more contemporary analogy, The Apprentice's Donald Trump--JP has chosen to watch the three wannabes fight it out in the corporate ring over the next year.

David Stout, president of global pharmaceuticals, is tasked with re-thinking supply-chain management. Chris Viehbacher, head of US pharmaceuticals, must work out how to improve GSK's public image, and Andrew Witty, Viehbacher's European counterpart, needs to sort out marketing; he's testing "new selling models" in a dozen world markets, according to an insider.

They’re big tasks, requested on top of the day job. But it’s a big reward, too—not just the kudos of running one of the largest drug firms (and, according to analysts, one with an above-average pipeline), but large pay-checks. One of the many controversies around JP’s reign was his fat-cat pay package, famously thrown out in 2003 by irate investors—the first such embarrassment for a FTSE-100 company chief.

It’s an unusual way of selecting a successor--AstraZeneca, Merck and Pfizer (which picked a relative outsider) apparently didn't have such a choice of candidates when they appointed new CEOs over the last year or so--but one which has merits. Each of the tasks is important to GSK’s future, and this is one sure way of making sure they’re tackled. And whoever wins will be able to build on the output of all three projects.

When the candidates enter the boardroom on judgment day, one of them will be hired. It’s unlikely that the other two will stick around to see their projects through, however.

Source: Telegraph

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