By Amna Karimi and Pushkala Aripaka
(Reuters) -GSK named luxury fashion brand Burberry’s Julie Brown as its first ever female chief financial officer on Monday to succeed Iain Mackay, as the British drugmaker sharpens focus on its core pharmaceuticals business.
Mackay, 60, will be retiring next year after serving as GSK’s finance chief for nearly four years, following an eight-year stint as group finance director at the bank HSBC.
The retirement, which has been in discussion for some time, comes after GSK’s spin off of its large consumer health business, Haleon, in July to focus on prescription drugs and vaccines.
Brown, also 60, will join GSK in April and take up the job in May. She has extensive experience in the health and pharmaceutical industry.
Investors may be surprised to see Iain Mackay’s retirement after only a few years in the role and the announcement coming only months after announcing the departure of head of R&D Hal Barron, J.P. Morgan analysts wrote in a note.
“Post the recent separation of the consumer health business, there may have been a desire to increase Healthcare experience in GSK’s management team,” they wrote.
Brown joined Burberry in 2017 from medical products maker Smith & Nephew and was a board member at Swiss drugmaker Roche until Sept. 26 when she stepped down.
She also served in several finance roles at AstraZeneca, which last year also appointed a female CFO, Aradhana Sarin.
With Emma Walmsley as GSK’s chief executive officer, Brown’s appointment also creates a rare, all-female top management at a blue-chip British company and a global pharma major.
Brown will receive an annual base salary of more than 900,000 pounds at GSK, the company said.
“Julie is a highly experienced CFO with a tremendous understanding of the biopharma sector. We also share a strong passion for people development, diversity, inclusion and sustainability,” CEO Walmsley said in a statement.
GSK has struck several multi-billion dollar deals recently under Mackay to shore up its drug pipeline after years of underperformance relative to its peers.
Investors are also wary of the potential for billions in damages that may arise from U.S. litigation over the heartburn drug Zantac which was originally marketed by a forerunner of GSK, and has been sold by several companies at different times, including Pfizer, Boehringer Ingelheim and Sanofi as well as a plethora of generic drugmakers.
In July, GSK delivered a strong second-quarter performance, boosting its full-year forecast.
Sky News first reported Brown’s appointment on Saturday.
(Reporting by Amna Karimi and Pushkala Aripaka in Bengaluru and Natalie Grover in London; Editing by Subhranshu Sahu, Louise Heavens and Ana Nicolaci da Costa)