Astra CEO to retire

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AstraZeneca’s CEO and board member, David Brennan, has decided to retire and relinquish his board responsibilities as of June 1. He has served as CEO since Jan. 1, 2006, but the company has experienced a few difficult, consecutive financial quarters, to which many analysts attribute his departure.

Following Brennan’s decision, the board had asked Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Simon Lowth to act as interim CEO from June 1 until a permanent successor is in place. Julie Brown, vice president group finance, will become interim CFO on the same date.  

Brennan began his career in 1975 at Merck, where he started as a sales representative in the U.S. division and later worked in sales and marketing management in the U.S. and International divisions. He joined AstraMerck in 1992, which was later merged to form AstraZeneca in 1999. He was appointed executive board director of AstraZeneca in 2005.

London-based AstraZeneca also announced that Leif Johansson will succeed Louis Schweitzer as non-executive chairman June 1—three months earlier than previously announced—and will become chairman of the Nomination and Governance Committee. This will enable Johansson to lead the selection process for Brennan's successor, including both internal and external candidates. Johansson's appointment to the AstraZeneca board is subject to approval by shareholders.

Brennan said in a statement: "After more than six years as CEO of this great company I have decided that now is the right time to step down and allow a new leader to take the reins. The board's decision to appoint Simon Lowth as interim CEO has my full support and I am confident that AstraZeneca will continue to have a positive impact on the lives of patients around the world and by doing so will deliver real value to our shareholders."

Brennan was appointed to his current role in January 2006 and is one of the longest serving chief executives in the pharmaceutical sector.

Also, as previously announced, following Michele Hooper's retirement from the board, John Varley was appointed senior independent non-executive director and Rudy Markham was appointed chairman of the audit committee.

Subject to their election by shareholders at the annual general meeting, Geneviève Berger and Graham Chipchase will join the board as non-executive directors. They will also become members of the Science Committee and the Audit Committee, respectively.