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Emma Walmsley set to be FTSE 100's most powerful woman as Glaxo chief executive

Published 20/09/2016

Emma Walmsley joined GlaxoSmithKline in 2010
Emma Walmsley joined GlaxoSmithKline in 2010

Drugs giant GlaxoSmithKline has named Emma Walmsley as its new chief executive in a move that will make her the most powerful woman in the FTSE 100.

Ms Walmsley has been promoted from heading Glaxo's consumer healthcare arm to chief executive designate and will replace Sir Andrew Witty when he retires next March.

She will join a small band of women at the top of some of the UK's biggest listed companies, becoming the seventh female FTSE 100 chief executive.

There are also women at the helm of easyJet, Imperial Brands, Whitbread, Royal Mail, Kingfisher and Severn Trent.

But with Glaxo's mammoth £80 billion stock market value dwarfing the other female-led FTSE 100 firms, she is likely to be the most powerful woman in the top tier.

Glaxo chairman Sir Philip Hampton, who is also leading a Government-commissioned review into boosting the number of women in executive posts at top UK companies, said her appointment follows a "very thorough and rigorous" selection process.

He added: "Emma is an outstanding leader with highly valuable experience of building and running major global businesses and a strong track record of delivering growth and driving performance in healthcare."

But shares dipped nearly 1% after the announcement.

Jasper Lawler, market analyst at CMC Markets, said: "Some more vocal shareholders had wanted an outsider appointed to help push through a change in GSK's structure, and are selling shares in a show of disappointment."

Ms Walmsley has headed Glaxo's £6 billion consumer healthcare arm since it was created in March last year as part of a joint venture with Novartis and has been a member of Glaxo's corporate executive team since 2011.

She joined Glaxo in 2010 from L'Oreal, where she worked for 17 years in a number of marketing and general management roles.

She said: "I am delighted and honoured to be appointed GSK's next chief executive.

"GSK is a company that leads both in science and in the way it does business. We have momentum in the group and as the demand for medical innovation and trusted healthcare products continues to rise, we have the opportunity and the potential to create meaningful benefits for patients, consumers and our shareholders."

Sir Andrew announced plans earlier this year to retire on March 31 2017, ending nearly nine years at the helm and more than three decades with Britain's biggest drugs company.

Glaxo said Ms Walmsley's salary will be announced on January 1, following a group-wide review of executive pay, while her total pay package will be set out in the firm's next annual report.

It comes as the group's executive pay is in the spotlight after it was disclosed that Sir Andrew's total pay surged by 71% to £6.7 million last year, despite falling core earnings and sales.

He was paid a salary of just under £1.1 million for 2015, and was also handed an annual bonus payment of £2.2 million and long-term share awards worth £ 2.6 million, although 25% of his annual bonus is deferred.

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