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Glaxo Names European Head, Witty, as New CEO

GlaxoSmithKline has picked Andrew Witty, currently president of its European pharmaceuticals business, to succeed Chief Executive Jean-Pierre Garnier from May 2008, it said on Monday.

Europe's biggest drugmaker said Witty was selected from a field of three internal candidates.

The other frontrunners for the job were Chris Viehbacher, head of Glaxo's U.S. business, and David Stout, the pharmaceuticals division chief, according to people close to the company.

Witty, 43, joined Glaxo U.K. in 1985 and has extensive experience working in many parts of the world, including developed and developing markets, as well as the United States and Europe.

Garnier had originally been due to step down this month, when he turns 60, but the board last year extended his contract until May 2008, so that he could oversee the rollout of key new products.

Garnier took charge of the company following the merger of Glaxo Wellcome and SmithKline Beecham that created it in 2000.

Chairman Christopher Gent said Witty's appointment followed a rigorous selection process. The company was always focused on selecting an internal candidate although the board did conduct some external "benchmarking," one of the sources said.