Overview: big shoes to fill

Jon Symonds joined pharmaceutical company Zeneca in 1997 as CFO after 17
years at KPMG. Within months of joining, he was involved in the merger
negotiations with Swedish pharmaceutical company, Astra.

After completion of the merger in 1998, Symonds was appointed as finance
chief for AstraZeneca
but was passed over for the chief exec’s job when David Brennan was appointed to
succeed Sir Tom McKillop two years ago.

What happened

AstraZeneca is now on the hunt for a replacement for its departing finance
director after he succumbed to the lure of the City to join the investment bank
Goldman Sachs.

Symonds, one of the UK’s most respected finance bosses will be catapulted
into a managing director’s position at the banking powerhouse with a remit that
includes boosting the role of private equity in the healthcare sector.

The company reported last week that Symonds would make the move from the
AstraZeneca offices to the imposing Goldman fortress on Fleet Street in

The move to Goldman comes as little surprise as Symonds enjoys a close
association with Chris Wales, another managing director at Goldman.
Interestingly, Goldman also advised on Zeneca’s merger with Astra.

What’s going to happen

AstraZeneca has said that the countdown has begun to the appointment of its
new CFO. The external search, which must be completed in the next six and a half
weeks before Symonds steps down for good, raises two key points.

The fact that the company has stated that it is only considering an external
replacement would seem to be a tacit admission that it is lacking the strength
in depth to promote someone from its ranks.

Even more crucially, the eventual replacement will not only have to handle
high-maintenance investors and City analysts, but will also have to be judged
against the awesome reputation that Symonds has forged in his ten years at the
pharmaceutical giant.

The new CFO will come under added pressure because the Anglo-Swedish
pharmaceutical company is sweating under calls to restructure and strengthen its
pipeline of new drugs.

Related reading