GlaxoSmithKline isn’t just making changes with its U.S. operations. The company is now exploring a new location for its global headquarters amid a historic business revamp.
GSK will leave its iconic glass-façade corporate headquarters in London, known as the GSK House, after 2023 at the earliest, the British pharma unveiled Monday. The company has yet to identify a new site but said it intends to stay in the same area to maintain “access to the U.K.’s world-leading science and innovation hubs.”
The adjustment marks another step forward for GSK CEO Emma Walmsley’s plan to split up the firm into two separate U.K.-listed healthcare giants, one focused on consumer health and the remaining “new GSK” focused on pharmaceuticals and vaccines.
GSK House has been in use since then-Prime Minister Tony Blair officially opened the £300 million complex in 2002. Now, GSK plans to market the campus for sale later this month, a GSK spokeswoman told Fierce Pharma.
GSK will provide an update on the new GSK global HQ in the middle of next year, around the time of the expected separation. Around 3,500 employees will remain at GSK House until at least the end of 2023, the spokeswoman said.
Meanwhile, the outgoing consumer health franchise will invest £120 million to build its own campus in Weybridge, U.K., the spokesperson said. The town lies about 20 miles southwest of central London. The consumer health unit’s U.S. HQ will remain in Warren, New Jersey, the spokeswoman said.
The new campus for the consumer health business will house around 1,400 employees, including its global support function teams, according to GSK. It’ll also have an innovation center with R&D labs and a shopper science lab, which will study consumer behaviors.
When designing the consumer health site, GSK is considering various measures that would put the HQ “in the top tier of sustainable buildings in the world,” the spokeswoman said. It aims to reduce solar heat gain or loss through the façade, eliminate the use of fossil fuels, feature less carbon-intensive materials and explore options to support biodiversity.
In addition, GSK is reviewing its use of office spaces companywide as part of the split.
“Working habits are also changing and we want to provide modern office environments that meet people’s needs for better collaboration, productivity and well-being, as we move to working with more flexibility,” the spokeswoman said.
The HQ news follows GSK’s disclosure that it’s replacing offices in North Carolina and Philadelphia with smaller spaces in the same regions in response to a new hybrid working model created by the COVID-19 pandemic that requires less needs for permanent workstations.
Spinning off the consumer health business is Walmsley’s way to focus the remaining GSK on innovative drugs and vaccines. But her own place at the new GSK is in question amid attack from activist investors Elliott Management and Bluebell Capital Partners.
During an investor call last week, Gordon Singer, head of Elliott’s London office and son of billionaire Paul Singer, reportedly questioned Walmsley’s leadership again. Elliott has previously demanded a process to choose GSK’s next leader, but several top investors have backed Walmsley.