Emma Walmsley became the chief executive of GlaxoSmithKline 22 months ago, looking like the opposite of a pharma insider: She was, instead, steeped in the business of selling toothpaste and Tums. Appearances may have been deceiving — because she’s betting on drugs.
Walmsley had run Glaxo’s consumer business for five years, and had previously worked for 17 years at L’Oréal. But if her tenure at the helm of Glaxo so far makes one thing clear, it’s that she is now all-in on pharma. In three years she plans to spin off the same consumer business she ran after merging it with Pfizer’s unit that sells Listerine and ChapStick, and, by the way, larding the new company with accumulated debt she’s sure it can quickly pay off.