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This week was turning into one of those where nothing very exciting happens until late in the day. Until this morning. AstraZeneca announced that its finance director Jon Symonds is leaving to join Goldman Sachs as a managing director.
Symonds had been passed over for the chief executive’s job when David Brennan was appointed to succeed Sir Tom McKillop two years ago. But there is more to this than a simple tale of an exec leaving in a huff. Astra’s shares may have gone nowhere much in the last decade but, as our pharma correspondent Andrew Jack writes this morning, Symonds is well-regarded in the City. He could have run or chaired almost any other large company he wanted. He could just as easily have taken the more common route into private equity or a hedge fund. With very few senior industrialists jumping into investment banking, his career choice is unusual (although his choice of bank might have something to do with the fact that Astra is a long-standing Goldman client).
It is worth noting that he has not actually been given a business to run at Goldman yet. Yet, it seems unlikely that a man who has held the responsibilities that Symonds has, and has his public profile, will remain a grunting MD for long. Unusually, he joins as a partner MD, so he has his snout quite a long way into the trough already. Perhaps to have given him more executive responsibility straight away would have put too many noses out of joint at a time when, as we reported this morning, banks can ill afford to lose good people. But give him a few months...
It is worth also saying that the move is not great news for AstraZeneca, although the shares are untroubled. Symonds was much liked in the City whereas Brennan, whom I have only met once, hardly sets the pulse racing.
Cable & Wireless has confirmed Kate Burgess’s scoop this morning that Richard Lapthorne is to receive a minimum of £10m in three years’ time if performance targets are met under the terms of a new pay scheme. We now have a bit more detail on the plan. It looks like the £20m cap on the amount any individual can receive is being removed. This could get lively.
Also, the chief executive of Severn Trent, Colin Matthews, seems to have restructured himself out of a job. He says he will be replaced around the end of the year. He took over in February 2005. Not a good few days for chief execs.