AstraZeneca’s chief executive David Brennan resigned yesterday hours before the company’s shareholder meeting started.
Investors had called for a change in leadership at the drug manufacturer, whose revenues are falling consistently: a profit warning was announced yesterday as AstraZeneca reported a 40% plunge in its pre-tax profits for the first quarter of 2012.
Yesterday Mr Brennan said: “I have decided that now is the right time to step down and allow a new leader to take the reins.”
The company’s top executives have been accused of receiving high salaries despite the struggle the business is enduring. Brennan, in particular, has faced criticism for his decision to cut thousands of jobs, while the problems of patent expiries and competing drugs weren’t tackled.
According the Guardian newspaper, Brennan received a £9.1m salary last year, and could now receive £1m as part of a pay-off package. He was supposed to give AstraZeneca a 12-month notice, but he will instead step down on June 1.
He will be temporarily replaced by finance director Simon Lowth. A source close to Astra’s board told Reuters: “Having someone in a lame-duck position wasn’t considered helpful.”
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