AstraZeneca boss Sir Pascal Soriot wants to resign
- Soriot has had one of the most successful careers in British corporate history
- According to a source, he has spoken to several people about leaving the company
- However, the 64-year-old has not spoken to the company’s board or chairman
Farewell: Sir Pascal Soriot
AstraZeneca boss Sir Pascal Soriot has privately told friends and trusted advisers that he wants to leave the largest company in the FTSE 100, The Mail on Sunday has learned.
He had one of the most successful careers in British corporate history, leading the development of one of the first Covid-19 vaccines and fending off a blockbuster takeover bid from US rival Pfizer.
A source said Soriot, 64, has spoken to several people about his departure but has not spoken to the pharmaceutical company’s board or chairman.
He is reportedly considering a departure as early as next year, although no decisions have been made and there is no set timetable.
In February, Soriot was asked if he planned to leave AstraZeneca, to which he replied: “I still feel fit, so I won’t leave anytime soon.”
And when the company’s new chairman, Michel Demaré, was appointed in April, Soriot said he looked forward to working with him “in the coming years.” He did not say in what capacity they would work together.
Soriot has been in this role for 11 years. He took the helm of the pharmaceutical giant in 2012 and is widely seen as spearheading a turnaround that has transformed AstraZeneca’s image from laggard to leader with an impressive portfolio of blockbuster cancer treatments.
Under his leadership, the company’s market value has more than tripled to £168 billion, putting it ahead of Shell and HSBC. And the French-Australian was the highest-paid chief executive in the FTSE 100 last year, with net income of £15.3 million, including a £10.5 million bonus paid to Soriot in shares if he hits several performance targets.
He is one of the few bosses in the Footsie to have earned more than £100m and has pocketed £120m so far.
AstraZeneca’s current success is a far cry from Soriot’s early days at the company. It got off to a rocky start in 2013 when its decision to move its headquarters from Alderley Park in Cheshire to Cambridge was branded by unions as a “massive blow” to the north west of England.
The following year, AstraZeneca was the subject of an opportunistic takeover bid by its US rival Pfizer, which offered to buy it for £70 billion as part of a plan to move its headquarters to the UK for tax reasons. Pfizer eventually pulled out after a public dispute, with AstraZeneca management arguing that the offer undervalued the company.
Soriot and his team have now been proven right: the British drug manufacturer is now worth more than its American applicant, which is worth around 154 billion pounds. In July, AstraZeneca itself bought Pfizer’s portfolio of gene therapy drugs in a deal worth almost £800 million.
Five years ago, Soriot said he was one of the worst-paid bosses in the pharmaceutical sector, a global industry in which the bosses of US giants earn colossal sums.
In February he also caused controversy by blaming the high cost of doing business in the UK for AstraZeneca moving its plans for a £330 million investment in a manufacturing plant to Ireland. Soriot said he wanted to build a “state-of-the-art” facility close to existing sites in the north west, but chose Ireland because the UK tax system was “daunting”.
In April he stepped up criticism by describing Britain as “very unattractive for business investment” and warning that it was difficult for pharmaceutical companies to set up manufacturing sites in the UK.
AstraZeneca became a household name at the height of the pandemic when the company teamed up with Oxford University to produce a vaccine that was sold without a profit – although Soriot angered investors by spending much of the pandemic at his family home Australia spent.
In 2021, he risked the wrath of shareholders again when he led a £28bn takeover of US rare disease specialist Alexion, then the industry’s biggest takeover since the start of the pandemic. The vaccination contributed to his being knighted in 2022 for his services to the life sciences.
It is believed the father-of-two will spend more time in Australia, where his family lives, following his exit.
AstraZeneca declined to comment.