Outlook: Leschly to go

SO FAREWELL then, Jan Leschly, Britain's first pounds 15m-a-year chief executive. London's corporate scene will be a greyer and duller place without the former Danish tennis star to entertain us. But, hey, who cares if it hastens the eventual, and in the City's view, inevitable, merger between Mr Leschly's SmithKline Beecham and Glaxo Wellcome. That, in any case, was the stock market's reaction to final confirmation yesterday that Mr Leschly will be hanging up his racket at the AGM next April, six months earlier than his official retirement date.

At just 59, you wouldn't expect him to be retiring from business entirely, of course, and he's not. Instead, he's off to join his sons, selling healthcare and pharmaceuticals across the Internet, where he can confidently expect to make a good deal more money than ever he did as a SmithKline Beecham wage slave.

Even so, it is a bit of mystery as to why he's severing all connections with SmithKline, a company whose market capitalisation has grown fivefold since he became chief executive six years ago. Why didn't the board make him non-executive chairman in succession to Sir Peter Walters, who at 68 is indisputably of an age where retiring to the country with the labradors might seem the appropriate thing? The official explanation is that no SmithKline executive ever gets a non-executive position, and that's policy.

Well maybe, but the City has a different explanation. Rightly or wrongly, Mr Leschly is seen as the main barrier to a value-enhancing merger with Glaxo Wellcome. Mr Leschly wanted to run the combined group out of Philadelphia, according to American management rules, lines of command and salary rates. Glaxo's Sir Richard Sykes thought that entirely inappropriate for a company that both culturally and operationally is British based.

With Mr Leschly gone and the apparently more compliant Jean- Pierre Garnier in the hot seat, there may be an opportunity for a fresh start. Again, that's the theory. The reality could be rather different. As Pfizer and Warner Lambert are proving in the US, bringing together two fiercely independent and competitive drugs companies is a profoundly difficult thing to pull off, however compelling the commercial logic. And although Tony "national champions" Blair, seems to have largely bought the case for hegemony under Sir Richard's banner, it is not clear that the competition authorities or the science establishment will take the same view.

The argument for putting together two top-drawer research and development companies is essentially the same as that of merging two top-performing football teams - together they would be a real world-beater. Well possibly, but just imagine what would happen if you merged Tottenham Hotspur with Arsenal. Civil war, and a side that would perform a good deal worse than each does individually.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Stiller as Derek Zoolander in the leaked trailer for Zoolander 2
film
Sport
footballArsenal take the Community Shield thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
Arts and Entertainment
Gemma Chan as synth Anita in Humans
film
News
Keeping it friendly: Tom Cruise on ‘The Daily Show’ with Jon Stewart
people
Arts and Entertainment
Ensemble cast: Jamie McCartney with ‘The Great Wall of Vagina’
artBritish artist Jamie McCartney explains a work that is designed to put women's minds at rest
News
Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump
people
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Administrator

£13000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about custom...

Recruitment Genius: Dialler Administrator

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Main purpose: Under the directi...

Ashdown Group: Contracts Manager - City of London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Contracts Manager - City...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen