AstraZeneca CFO quits for Goldman

Jon Symonds, chief financial officer of AstraZeneca, is leaving the pharmaceutical group to join Goldman Sachs, as the bank looks to capitalise on his high-level influence at UK companies.

AstraZeneca chief financial officer Jon Symonds is leaving the group to join the investment banking arm of Goldman Sachs, sparking speculation that the bank will use his influence to pursue private equity deals in the pharmaceutical sector.

AstraZeneca said Symonds, who has held the role for ten years, is leaving the company in July and will join Goldman’s investment banking division as a partner-level managing director in September.

The departure of Symonds, one of the most respected chief financial officers in the City, is more bad news for AstraZeneca, which has seen its share price fall more than 10 percent since the poorly-received $15.6 billion acquisition of US biotech firm MediImmune recently. The timing of Symonds’ move has fuelled speculation that he was also unhappy about the deal, and with some of the other decisions taken since he was passed over for the chief executive role in 2005.

Symonds’ new role will be based in London, where he will be responsible for developing the firm’s new and existing client relationships. The hire suggests that Goldman, which is keen to develop opportunities where it can employ its ’triple-play’ strategy of advising, lending to and investing in buyouts, believes that his relationships at boardroom level will help the bank access new potential deals. This could include buyouts in the pharmaceutical sector, an area which has previously seen little private equity activity.

Symonds is likely to receive a substantial pay rise as a result of the move. According to Astra Zeneca’s latest annual report, he was paid about $2.15 million last year; as a partner at Goldman, his pay is likely to exceed $10 million.