GSK names Burberry’s Julie Brown as CFO, creating an all-female top team

UNITED KINGDOM – GSK has named luxury fashion brand Burberry’s Julie Brown as its first-ever female chief financial officer 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.

Mackay joined drug and healthcare giant GlaxoSmithKline in 2019. Earlier this year, the healthcare business was spun off as Haleon, with the remainder of the business rebranded GSK and focused exclusively on prescription drugs and vaccines.

Haleon’s £30bn (US$33.6 billion) listing was the biggest in London since Glencore’s 2011 initial public offering.

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.

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 (US$1M) 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 US 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.

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