Spotlight on: Andy Hornby, Chairman of Pharmacy2U


Lucy Tobin
Tuesday 19 June 2012 11:29 BST

The former HBOS boss who led the bank to the brink of collapse?

Shhh, he doesn't like to hark on about that. But yes.

What's he doing now?

After a comeback that British business still speaks of in awed tones – from disgraced banker at the centre of public humiliation to the boss of the chemist Alliance Boots in just nine months – Mr Hornby is dipping a toe into selling drugs online as non-executive chairman of Pharmacy2U.

One of those dodgy sites whose emails I divert to junk mail?

No, not one of them. This drugs seller is the UK's biggest online pharmacy. It has partnerships with some 300 NHS GP surgeries and sales of £20m to May 2011. The only men's product prominently advertised on its website is a Regaine for Men – the extra-strength triple pack to combat hair loss.

So now Mr Hornby is taking on Boots?

In a way. He unexpectedly quit his £1m-a-year chief executive role at the healthcare group last March. "After an intense five years as CEO of two major companies, I have decided to take a few months' break," he said. But then he popped up at the bookmaker Coral, where he was given the top job, only a few months later last July. At Boots, Mr Hornby expanded the chemist overseas, with deals in Turkey and Germany. So far Yorkshire-based Pharmacy2U has stuck to the British market: the speculation was that its new chairman may have been hired to also help it grow abroad. But his knowledge of the UK pharmacy market is hardly flaky either.

A corporate veteran …

Yes, but still only 45. He took a traditional route to the top: studying English at Oxford, then spending three years with the Boston Consulting Group, followed by an MBA at Harvard. He came top of his class of 800, of course, then becoming a protégé of Allan Leighton at Asda before his ill-fated roll at Halifax, which he joined in 1999 to run the retail business. "I'd be surprised," he said at the time, "if in 10 to 15 years' time, I'm not running something big."

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