The activist investor has already had several talks with GSK shareholders as he prepares his latest assault. Discussions have ranged from how the company will be divided to whether or not GSK could be dismantled, with parts for sale to potentially a U.S. giant, according to insiders.
From Elliott the message was clear. “Change is coming,” he told other investors on a call – a remark that suggests an impending attack.
The biggest goal for Elliott appears to be on Dame Emma herself. “They want her not to run the pharmaceutical company,” says one funder.
Another said, “They want her out. But Elliott knows not to do it too directly. Don’t get angry, but wait and keep chomping. “
Elliott is set to present his action plan for GSK at the company’s Capital Markets Day on June 23. Dame Emma must now wage a battle on two fronts: against investors who have been seduced by the activist investor and her own employees who are losing confidence in his leadership.
Questions will inevitably be asked about his decision regarding the Covid jab. Sources say the global health division told Dame Emma that Covid is big and the company needs to make a major effort.
Still, bosses feared that developing a full-blast vaccine might be an unnecessary distraction.
“Covid’s response was deliberate,” a company insider said. “GSK was distracted on Ebola and did not want to repeat this mistake.
“Ebola has just fizzled out and the lesson to be learned is that society has been left with a less than ideally productive vaccine research and development effort. “
A repeat of this would be something GSK could hardly afford. For years, it set the stage for a disruption that will happen next year – its biggest restructuring since Glaxo Wellcome merged with SmithKline Beecham in 2000 to create the company it is today.
He wants to split the business into two companies, one being a biopharmaceutical company focused on research and development and the other in consumer health which includes brands such as Sensodyne toothpaste and pain relievers Panadol.
Shifting the company’s attention and resources to finding a Covid vaccine was the last thing she needed.
Instead, it chose to partner with Sanofi, providing an adjuvant to make vaccines developed by other companies more effective.
“It’s a big company that makes many different types of vaccines, and they made what was in many ways the safe choice,” said Sir John Bell, the vaccine czar. “If you were betting on which product is most likely to cross the finish line, an adjuvanted vaccine would have been the one you would have bet on. But it was always going to be slower.