AstraZeneca’s enigmatic chief executive, Tom McKillop, is to leave the pharmaceutical world to join the Royal Bank of Scotland as chairman designate – if reports circulating this morning are to be believed. AstraZeneca, which made the announcement of Sir Tom’s retirement alongside record second quarter results, said his post will be filled by chief of US operations David Brennan effective January 1, 2006. Sir Tom was initially due to retire in March but he agreed in 2004 extend his tenure following the appointment of Renault chief Louis Schweitzer as non-executive chairman [[12/03/04e]].

Sir Tom has been credited with enormous success since the merger of Zeneca with Sweden’s Astra back in 1999, but has battled with several high profile disappointments in recent times, including the failure of its anticoagulant, Exanta (ximelagatran), to garner approval in the crucial US market, the failure of its cancer drug Iressa (gefitinib) to show a survival benefit in a key trial, and heightened scrutiny over its cholesterol-lowering drug Crestor (rosuvastatin) [[13/09/04a]], [[20/12/04b]], [[23/02/05c]].

Sir Tom will spend one year as deputy chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland before taking over as chairman in place of George Mathewson next July, according to a Reuters report.

Meanwhile, the UK giant reported sales for the second quarter of $6.1 billion dollars, up 13% at constant exchange rates, while operating profit was $1.7 billion dollars – boosted a staggering 53%. More results in tomorrow's News Online.