New AstraZeneca chief ‘clears the decks’ at medicine maker

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AstraZeneca’s new chief executive stamped his authority on the drug maker yesterday by removing the heads of research and commercial operations in a management revamp designed to speed decision-making.

Pascal Soriot, who took the helm at Britain’s second-biggest pharmaceutical company in October, said the roles held by Martin Mackay and Tony Zook respectively had been eliminated and both would leave the company at the end of the month.

Soriot is creating three senior research and development (R&D) roles responsible for discovery and early-stage development in “small molecules”, “biologics” and late-stage work.

On the commercial side, three positions will in future represent different regions. A further senior role will oversee the global portfolio and product strategy, bridging the R&D and sales organisations.

The move strips out a layer of senior management and means executives in charge of different divisions will have a seat at the executive top table.

Soriot, a former executive at rival drugs firm Roche, said: “This new senior executive team structure, that draws heavily from the leadership talent within the company, enables us to bring an even sharper management focus to key pipeline assets, key brands and key markets, and helps us further accelerate decision-making.”

He is expected to set out his ideas for the group when he presents full-year results on 31 January, before delivering full details of an in-depth strategy review during a meeting for analysts and investors in March.

Navid Malik, an analyst at Cenkos Securities, said: “He is clearing the decks. But it is a surprise to see Mackay leaving.

“He was a one-time head of research at Pfizer, so he’s a heavy-hitter brought on board to solve problems and he hasn’t really had a lot of time to do that.”