GSK eyeing industry vet Jonathan Symonds as new chair; report

GlaxoSmithKline is reported to have found the person it wants to replace Sir Philip Hampton as its non-executive chairman, going for someone with plenty of pharma industry experience.

It has its eye on Jonathan Symonds (pictured), who has formerly held finance director roles at both Novartis and AstraZeneca and sits on the board of Genomics England, Proteus Digital and Rubius Therapeutics, according to a Sky News report.

Symonds also worked for several years at Goldman Sachs after missing out to David Brennan in a bid to take AZ’s top job in 2007, and also had a stint at KPMG. His current job is as deputy group chairman at HSBC, so he would bring both pharma and capital markets expertise to the GSK role if the appointment is confirmed.

GSK hasn’t yet commented on the speculation other than to say that an announcement on the new chairman would be made “in due course.”

Hampton announced his departure from GSK in January in the wake of the company’s decision to split into two separate businesses, one focused on consumer health and over-the-counter medicines via a joint venture with Pfizer and the other on prescription drugs and vaccines.

He has been in the role for almost four years, and is viewed as being instrumental in the appointment of GSK CEO Emma Walmsley two years ago, but industry commentators have expressed concerns that neither he nor Walmsley had a background in the pharma sector.

In announcing his retirement, Hampton said the time was right for a new chair to oversee the separation of the businesses “through to its conclusion over the next few years.”

Symonds has the credentials for that task, having been involved in AZ’s takeover of Medimmune as well as the acquisition of Alcon whilst at Novartis, and many years ago was involved in the deal that separated drugmaker Zeneca from chemicals group ICI.

Symonds appointment would be subject to the approval of the banking ‎regulator, given his existing role at HSBC and the impact of his new time commitments at GSK, said Sky News.

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