GlaxoSmithKline appoints Emma Walmsley as FTSE 100's latest female chief executive

Jake Cordell
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Emma Walmsley
Emma Walmsley will join the small ranks of FTSE 100 female chief executives (Source: GlaxoSmithKline)

GlaxoSmithKline will join the exclusive club of top firms to have a woman at its helm, the pharmaceutical giant announced this morning.

Emma Walmsley, head of GSK's consumer healthcare division, will become the firm's new chief executive from March 2017, replacing the outgoing Andrew Witty.

Announcing the appointment, GSK chairman Philip Hampton said: "I am very pleased to announce Emma's appointment after what has been a very thorough and rigorous global selection process.

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"Emma is an outstanding leader with highly valuable experience of building and running major businesses and a strong track record of delivering growth and driving performance in healthcare."

With a market capitalisation of more than £80bn, GSK is the largest UK-listed firm to appoint a female chief executive, and Walmsley becomes the seventh serving woman with a FTSE 100 corner office.

GSK shares opened the day down one per cent at 1,628p.

The lucky seven: Female FTSE 100 leaders

  • Alison Brittain, Whitbread
  • Veronique Laury, Kingfisher
  • Moya Greene, Royal Mail
  • Alison Cooper, Imperial Tobacco
  • Carolyn McCall, EasyJet
  • ​Liv Garfield, Severn Trent
  • Emma Walmsley, GlaxoSmithKline (from April 2017)

Walmsley has been with GSK since 2010, when she joined from L'Oreal and has previously overseen its corporate executive team before taking over the consumer healthcare branch which looks after brands such as Sensodyne toothpaste, and Ortivin nasal spray.

Walmsley said: "I am delighted and honoured to be appointed GSK's new chief executive. GSK is a company that leads in both science and the way it does business.

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"We have momentum in the group and as the demand for medical innovation and trusted healthcare products continues to rise, we have the opportunity and the potential to create meaningful benefits for patients, consumers and our shareholders."

Outgoing chief executive Andrew Witty announced he was jumping ship in March in the midst of an acrimonious battle with shareholders who were calling for the firm to be broken up. He had been in place since 2008, though profits at GSK have slipped in recent years and Witty's £6m a year pay package was brought into question.