Sir Andrew Witty is standing down as chief executive of pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline after nearly a decade at the helm, the group has revealed this morning.
Witty will retire on 31 March 2017, giving the group time to search for a successor. GSK said it would consider internal and external candidates for the role.
Investors seemed unfazed by the change at the top: GSK's share price was down just 0.4 per cent on the open.
Chairman Philip Hampton said:"Andrew's retirement next year will represent the culmination of 32 years of service and leadership to GSK and the industry.
"We will thank Andrew more formally for his tremendous dedication and contribution next year. In the meantime, we will now start a formal process to appoint his successor, whilst also ensuring the group remains focused on execution of its strategy to drive growth and performance."
Witty added: "GSK is a very special company with an inspiring mission and many dedicated people. By next year, I will have been chief executive for nearly ten years and I believe this will be the right time for a new leader to take over.
"In making this decision it has been important to me that the board have the time to conduct a full and proper process and that we sustain the momentum of our current business performance, capitalising on the very significant progress we made last year to strengthen the group. By doing so we will strongly position GSK to achieve the medium-term outlook set out to investors last year and deliver a return to core earnings growth in 2016."
In addition, a number of directors have said they will not stand for re-election to the board at the AGM in May.
Sir Deryck Maughan, Dr Stephanie Burns, Dr Daniel Podolsky and Hans Wijers, who serve across a range of roles including the audit and risk committee, nominations and remuneration committee and corporate responsibility, will all stand down simultaneously.
Hampton said these departures were part of "the usual cycle of board refreshment".
"I would like to thank Deryck, Stephanie, Dan and Hans who have served GSK's board with distinction for many years and I'm sure will continue to do so until their retirement," he added.
Professor Sir Roy Anderson and Dr Jesse Goodman have been appointed members of the corporate responsibility committee, and will take on the role from 1 May 2016.