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AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline come to a peaceful settlement of their tug of war over Luke Miels

Luke Miels

It looks like Luke Miels “gardening leave” will run through the summer before he bids one final farewell to AstraZeneca and moves over to GlaxoSmithKline as pharma chief.

The two UK pharma giants quietly duked it out over Miels after GlaxoSmithKline announced the move. AstraZeneca boxed him up with his contract, suing him over the move, but GSK says today that Miels will now start his new job — free of any old strings — as pharma president on September 4.

AstraZeneca’s objections put a crimp in new CEO Emma Walmsley’s plans to have Miels work alongside Abbas Hussain before the former pharma boss departed. Miels is expected to wield considerable influence on the company’s R&D plans after a lengthy drought in the pipeline under R&D chief Patrick Vallance, with little to boast about in late-stage development.

GSK has had better luck with ViiV developing new HIV therapies that are expected to keep that unit a vital segment of the overall business.

GSK has had to deal with years of growing frustration among a key wing of big investors. Neil Woodford recently cut his ties with the pharma giant, declaring his own personal ‘Glaxit’ after concluding that the company would never follow any of his advice about delivering shareholder value.

Miels, meanwhile, benefited from AstraZeneca’s success in advancing several important new cancer drugs, even while much of the rest of the pipeline has frequently failed to perform. He played a big role in setting the course for Tagrisso, and he’ll be expected to do the same for GSK — if he gets the drugs he needs to grow the business.

Gardening leave is a quaint term for a longtime leave of absence as a departing exec is ordered to stay away from the company but stays on the payroll, unable to join the competition.


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