GSK Boss Witty To Quit His Whitehall Role
Drugs giant tells Sky News Sir Andrew Witty’s exit will come at the end of his term and is unrelated to ongoing problems in China.
GSK says its boss’ planned Whitehall exit is not related to issues in China
By Mark Kleinman, City Editor
Sir Andrew Witty, the chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), is to step down later this year from a key Whitehall post that has seen him become one of the coalition’s most influential business advisorsSky News has learnt that Sir Andrew, who is embroiled in the biggest crisis of his leadership at the drugs giant amid allegations of a massive bribery scandal in China, will quit his role in December as the lead independent director on the board of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). GSK said on Wednesday that his exit was unrelated to the China kickbacks probe or any other external issue, and that it was solely because his term would be expiring
“Andrew has very much enjoyed his time as the lead non-executive at BIS. He is looking forward to publishing his review into universities and growth later this year. His three-year term at BIS is due to finish at the end of the year so, as planned, he will be stepping down,” a GSK spokesman said.
Sir Andrew was among dozens of business leaders appointed to the boards of Whitehall departments in December 2010 as part of an initiative aimed at bringing broader commercial expertise into Government.
At the time, the duration of the appointments was not made clear by the Cabinet Office, which co-ordinated the initiative, and it is thought that many of the directors will remain in their non-executive roles in order to provide continuity.
The departure of Sir Andrew at the end of his term avoids a potential embarrassment given his proximity to the department of government responsible for business policy.
He is understood not to have been put under pressure to step down by Vince Cable, the Business Secretary.
Sir Andrew has become one of David Cameron’s closest allies in the business community, outlining plans to return part of GSK’s research and development budget to the UK in the wake of new measures relating to the taxation of intellectual property.
He also serves as a member of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Group.
The GSK chief is fighting fires on several fronts, with allegations made by Chinese authorities in recent days that the company used travel agencies as a front to bribe doctors and other health officials to buy more of its drugs at higher prices.
GSK has said it will co-operate with the inquiry and has “zero tolerance” of such conduct.
Media reports suggested that Steve Nechelput, the finance director of GSK’s Chinese operations, had been banned from leaving the country.
GSK also faces a headache closer to home after being accused by the Office of Fair Trading in April of abusing its “dominant position” in the market for supplies of one of the UK’s leading antidepressant medicines.
The drive to bring more businesspeople into Whitehall has had mixed results, although Sky News understands that Lord Browne, the former boss of BP, has been persuaded to stay on as the overall lead non-executive despite indicating that he was likely to step down.