Duncan Burke is to leave the drugs giant next week, with current V-P of global internal comms Elaine MacFarlane poised to assume his responsibilities in a newly created and as-yet-untitled position.
Burke’s ten-strong and MacFarlane’s five-strong teams are to merge, reporting to MacFarlane, who will continue to report to senior V-P of corporate comms and community partnerships Jennie Younger – the firm’s top global communicator – who is overseeing the changes.
The redundancy of Burke – who joined in 2000 with a remit to protect and promote the firm’s corporate reputation – follows a spate of negative press over its anti-depressant Seroxat (known as Paxil in the US).
GSK last month agreed to a settlement with New York attorney-general Eliot Spitzer over allegations it suppressed data that Paxil increased harmful behaviour in kids. GSK, denying wrongdoing and charges of fraud, agreed to pay around £1.4m and publish all results of drug trials.
The Anglo-American giant has also faced flak over the pay package of CEO Jean-Pierre Garnier and fierce criticism over the cost of medicines, such as its Aids drugs, in the developing world.
Burke, who plans to work as a freelance PR consultant, said: ‘My job was to set up a strong corporate brand and look at reputation management. That has now been done.’ He added: ‘I am happy to go – this was all very amicable.’
Burke’s exit is the latest in a series of high-profile exits from GSK’s comms teams.
It emerged last week that international comms V-P Louise Sibley had quit (PRWeek, 17 September), while V-P of UK corporate media relations Martin Sutton has also left, having confirmed his planned exit earlier in the year.
Earlier this year, V-P of international external relations Kate James quit to join Standard Chartered Bank (PRWeek, 18 March).
MacFarlane will work alongside Phil Thomson, who has become V-P UK corporate media relations, replacing Sutton.
Thomson moves from his former role as GSK’s director of investor relations (PRWeek, 17 September).