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 24.

    I find it difficult to have any sympathy with any company that tests on animals at the level AstraZeneca do.

    Contrary to the rest of these comments, I hope they crash and burn and this is the beginning of the end.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    This is a superb company, in that respect just like Tesco.

    I am sure that the retirees deserve every hard earned penny of their retirement benefits so willingly provided by the excellent shareholders.

    Well done Robert for commenting on a good business matter. Look forward to your next brilliant post on the important matters of the day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    "The priority, I am told, is to improve the productivity of research and development"

    .A euphemism for cracking the whip and placing everyone involved with research on notice that the research deadlines will be shortened and tests on new products not carried out to the same exacting standards.
    Look out for future recalls of products having undesirable side effects and litigation in the courts

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    Now now, Robert. Don't get distracted from the Murdochs by something as mundane as a business story.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.


    "AZ has just been collecting the rent on their existing patents which are starting to expire"

    Too right. They have majorly failed to bring much to market for too long. This is clearly the result of over-regulation, with the pesky government insisting on tests and trials and assurances about health and safety.

    Oh right. The regulation protects people. Where's fTP?


Comments 5 of 50



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