GSK calls in headhunters to find new chairman

GlaxoSmithKline has hired headhunters to search for a replacement for Sir Christopher Hogg, its chairman, adding a further element of competition in the search for a new boss at Marks & Spencer.

The pharmaceuticals giant is hoping to appoint a chairman-designate to the board later this year, with a view to taking over the top post next year.

Sir Christopher, 67, is keen to retire on a high, and hopes first to complete the task of improving GSK's fractious relations with its shareholders over executive pay. After losing a vote on its remuneration policy - and the generous "golden parachute" for Jean-Pierre Garnier, its chief executive - at last year's annual meeting, Sir Christopher has steered GSK's negotiations with shareholders over a replacement policy. This is likely to be backed by shareholders next week, having just won approval from the National Association of Pension Funds.

Headhunters are also searching for a new chairman at J Sainsbury, and learned a lesson in the difficulty of such high-profile appointments after the first-choice candidate, Sir Ian Prosser, was forced to withdraw. His appointment was criticised by shareholders as unimaginative and his record as chairman of Bass as lacklustre.

GSK is believed to be proceeding at a more leisurely pace in its search than M&S. One source said: "There is no fixed time frame on this as it will depend on the candidate. One thing we can be sure of is that it won't be Sir Ian Prosser."

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