GSK loses comms chief McCrae to pharma rival

GlaxoSmithKline’s communications chief is leaving the company to join rival pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca in the new year.

Vice president for UK corporate affairs & European comms Neil McCrae is set to join AstraZeneca in January after 11 years at GSK.

McCrae joins as global head of media relations, reporting to vice president for group corporate comms Caroline Hempstead. The position has been created as the result of a restructuring of the corporate affairs department at AstraZeneca.

Hempstead said: ‘The restructure aims to bring greater global alignment and co-ordination to our group communications as well as further strengthening the team.’

In his new role, McCrae will be responsible for managing the group press office and building relationships with business and international media in London.

During his 11 years at GSK, McCrae has risen up the ranks after starting in the consumer healthcare team. He left his role as European communications director to join the pharmaceutical arm in 2003 (PRWeek, 4 September 2003).

In his current role he is responsible for government affairs and comms within GSK’s UK pharma business. He reports to Eddie Gray, general manager of GSK’s UK Pharmaceuticals business. No replacement has yet been appointed to take over his position.

His imminent exit follows the departure of GSK’s senior external comms manager David Daley, who recently left to join The Health Protection Agency (PRWeek, 16 November).

At GSK, Daley leaves behind a five-strong team under the leadership of head of external comms Kate Hewer, who returned from maternity leave this year.

Last month, GSK warned of job losses as it announced cost-cutting plans to offset falling sales of diabetes treatment Avandia. Sales have declined since a study concluded that it increased the risk of heart problems.

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