AstraZeneca bosses to leave after boardroom 'coup'

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In a very unusual move, the chief executive of AstraZeneca, David Brennan, and the chairman, Louis Schweitzer, are both retiring earlier than expected.

Sources tell me they were encouraged to go by the other non-executives, against the background of concerns from shareholders that the performance of the huge drug company has been disappointing.

"The board took the view we needed change, because of the urgency of implementing a new strategy; any hiatus would not have been right or acceptable," said a source close to the company. "It was difficult and painful. Forcing through this kind of thing is not easy."

It is the departure of Mr Brennan, who has held the reins for more than six years, which is more significant. The finance director, Simon Lowth, will replace him on an interim basis.

Mr Schweitzer is standing down three months before he was due to go, so that a new chairman - Leif Johansson - can begin the search for a permanent chief executive.

First quarter profits, also announced today, have fallen 38% to £1.3bn - and the group warned that profits in the year as a whole will be worse than expected.

"People will doubtless connect their departures with the first-quarter figures," said a source. "That's wrong. The board has been concerned for some time that we needed a new chief executive. We haven't reacted to one poor set of results".

The priority, I am told, is to improve the productivity of research and development, possibly by doing deals with other drug companies.

Leif Johansson, former chief executive of Volvo, will succeed Mr Schweitzer on 1 June. That will also be Mr Brennan's departure date.

Robert Peston Article written by Robert Peston Robert Peston Economics editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    WOW just dig out any big coorporation story and its amazing what posters can hang off it. Bribery corruption, exploitation, left wing dogma right wing dogma ......hours of entertainment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    35. CO I was once (very briefly) a civil service scientific officer. 4 good A levels, a Bsc an MSc and 4 yrs experience. When a clerical officer school lever with 2 A levels was paid more I quit. The anti-science bias has nothing to do with free markets - its cultural, but oodles of well paid scientists doing research does not gauarantee successful R&D. Its quality not quantity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    According to The Guardian "Brennan could walk away with about £5m – after receiving more than £9m in pay, perks and shares last year." In addition he has a pension pot worth $23 million, plus further multi-million vested share options. Like with the banks, these large corporates are just involved in wealth redistribution to the already very rich

  • Comment number 47.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Mr BluesBerry clearly has an axe to grind and I'd be the first to agree that AZ are far from perfect, but post #43 is pushing it - using "alleged" to get away with allegations of blatent bribery and corruption is cheap. More evidence required to get away with that one.


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