the Noble Interviews / "Sir" Andrew Witty
We meet at a railway station, at a coffee kiosk with its paper cups and optimistic pastries. The handsome, smart-suited man striding purposefully across the dingy platform is the subject of my interview today. He shakes my hand firmly and sits down next to me on one of the metal platform benches, without first going to the counter to be served. There is an air of quiet certainty, confidence, and authority about him.
DM: Hello Sir Andrew. May I call you Andy?
AW: Bien sur, whatever works..
DM: You don't want coffee Andy boy?
There is a moment's hesitation as he pantomimes looking for his wallet.
AW: Actually, I rather assumed you would be buying.
DM: Of course, of course, Andy poops, how silly of me. I suffered this same lapse at my last interview. Wealthy people don't buy rounds do they?
AW: (chuckling) No, no, of course not. We don't usually carry cash in fact.
There is a pause as I go up to queue at the kiosk for a takeaway latte (small).
AW: Ta. Thanks.
DM: (resuming my seat) Andy you are the current boss of GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceuticals conglomerate....
AW: Yes, that's true.
DM: ...but haven't you had to admit "major failings" in GSK’s Chinese operations?
AW: Not sure what you're on about there, but we market vigorously (his emphasis) wherever we feel there's a chance to make a buck.
DM: But China’s security ministry is saying that your company took kickbacks and paid bribes to government officials.
AW: Well, you always have to take ex-commies' assertions with a grain of salt, but I'm happy to say we're on top of the situation and will root out the perps.
DM: But this has already been going on for a number of years now, and your "Internal Compliance Unit" didn't manage to root out anything at all?
AW: You've hit the nail on the head there Deacon. We have an Internal Compliance Unit. What more can I say? For obvious reasons, much of their work must remain clandestine. But China is an isolated incident and a wild west of a market place. There are bound to be some small lapses of our code of conduct - to which, I might add, all Glaxo employees are required to subscribe.
DM: But weren't you fined $3bn (£2bn) for abusive practices in marketing drugs in America?
AW: You know what? I thought this was going to be a quiet chat over a cup of coffee in a relaxed atmosphere. This now seems to be getting personal and, as a knight of the realm, I don't have to put up with it.
He leaves, taking his latte and picking up a couple of extra sugar packets as he goes.
The sky has become overcast. A light drizzle and a mood of melancholy descends from the heavens.
© 2013 Deacon Martin