As­traZeneca throws a mon­key wrench in new GSK CEO’s first hir­ing de­ci­sion, su­ing Luke Miels

Luke Miels

Back at the be­gin­ning of this year, one of Em­ma Walm­s­ley’s first moves as in­com­ing CEO of Glax­o­SmithK­line was to poach Luke Miels from As­traZeneca to head up the glob­al phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals busi­ness. Miels’ ex­pe­ri­ence in phar­ma and his ear­li­er role man­ag­ing the port­fo­lio and strat­e­gy at As­traZeneca, she said, gave him in­sights on R&D and the in­dus­try that would make him unique­ly suit­ed to the job.

Ev­i­dent­ly, As­traZeneca be­lieves he may be too suit­ed to the job.

The phar­ma gi­ant has now sued Miels in a UK Court, ac­cord­ing to a re­port in Bloomberg. As­traZeneca al­leges that Miels is in vi­o­la­tion of his con­tract, but ev­i­dent­ly didn’t spec­i­fy which sec­tions of the con­tract had been vi­o­lat­ed.

Em­ma Walm­s­ley

In the mean­time, Miels — four months af­ter he ac­cept­ed the new job — is now on “gar­den­ing leave.”

As­traZeneca CEO Pas­cal So­ri­ot, who was him­self poached from Roche for the top job, has watched a num­ber of R&D ex­ecs leave the com­pa­ny over the past year with­out trig­ger­ing a law­suit.

A spokesper­son for the com­pa­ny tells me via email:

Luke gave no­tice to ter­mi­nate his em­ploy­ment with As­traZeneca in Jan­u­ary 2017. In line with his con­tract and in view of the com­mer­cial­ly com­pet­i­tive na­ture, Luke left his po­si­tion with im­me­di­ate ef­fect and was placed on gar­den leave for the du­ra­tion of his no­tice pe­ri­od. The suit seeks to con­firm Luke is re­quired to abide by the terms of his con­tract of em­ploy­ment.

Be­cause this is an on­go­ing mat­ter I can’t com­ment fur­ther.

GSK says it will be wait­ing for Miels with open arms, when the time ar­rives. Said a spokesper­son:

“Luke is a very tal­ent­ed in­di­vid­ual that we’ve ap­point­ed to lead our phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals busi­ness. We look for­ward to wel­com­ing him to GSK in due course.”

Walm­s­ley, in the mean­time, has had to deal with rebel in­vestors and some great ex­pec­ta­tions about how she plans to make her stint at the top of the phar­ma gi­ant a suc­cess. Neil Wood­ford, a long­time crit­ic of the com­pa­ny’s un­ex­cit­ing pipeline, bolt­ed days ago, say­ing he ex­pect­ed that GSK’s one vi­brant arm, Vi­iV, was about to get ham­mered by a ri­val HIV drug from Gilead. The CEO in turn is re­port­ed­ly prep­ping a buy­out of No­var­tis’ por­tion of their JV on con­sumer health, a $10.3 bil­lion wa­ger.

Here’s what she had to say about Miels’ par­tic­i­pa­tion last Jan­u­ary:

We are now en­ter­ing a crit­i­cal pe­ri­od of com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion for our new phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal prod­ucts and, over the next two to three years, we have im­por­tant da­ta to come on our ear­ly-stage pipeline. Luke will bring a strong new voice to the de­ci­sions and choic­es we will have to make for our Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals busi­ness. I am de­light­ed he has agreed to join GSK and look for­ward to wel­com­ing him to the ex­ec­u­tive team.

That wel­com­ing par­ty will have to wait for now.

John Hood [file photo]

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On June 18, 2019, we initiated a confidential arbitration proceeding against Dr. Asa Abeliovich, our former consulting co-founder, related to alleged breaches of his consulting agreement and the improper use of our confidential information that he learned during the course of rendering services to us as our consulting Chief Scientific Officer/Chief Innovation Officer. We are in the early stage of this arbitration proceeding and are unable to assess or provide any assurances regarding its possible outcome.

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CEO Pascal Soriot via Getty Images

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