Dr Elliot Goldstein, 47, a senior vice-president with the pharmaceutical giant, will replace the outgoing chief executive, Dr Keith McCullagh, at the end of September.
Dr Goldstein, who also worked for Sandoz of France, will receive a total pay package of pounds 500,000, including a pounds 175,000 "golden hello". He will be given 500,000 shares in the company which can be exercised in two years' time.
His arrival will coincide with the departure of Dr Pam Kirby, British Biotech's commercial director, believed to have been an internal candidate for the post. A spokeswoman for the company said yesterday that Dr Kirby's "contractual obligations will be met". Last year, Dr Kirby received a salary of pounds 146,000 for the eight months she worked since joining the company.
City analysts said Dr Goldstein's first task would be to restore investor confidence in the company. Shares in British Biotech have lost more than 80 per cent of their value as the company was embroiled in a bitter feud with Dr Andrew Millar, its former head of clinical research. He was sacked in April after accusing the board of issuing overoptimistic statements over two of the company's drugs, the pancreatitis treatment Zacutex and the cancer compound Marimastat. The drugs are still awaiting regulatory approval. Yesterday the stock closed 0.5p down at 36.5p.