French-born business executive and doctor of pharmacology. As CEO of the pharmaceutical company SmithKline Beecham (SKB) from 1999, he negotiated SKB's merger with Glaxo Wellcome in 2000 to create GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), the world's largest drug company by sales (as reported by the Financial Times). After eight sometimes controversial years at the helm of the merged company, he stepped down as CEO of GSK in May 2008.
Garnier joined pharmaceutical company SmithKline Beecham as president of the North American pharmaceutical business in 1990. He was elected to the board in 1992, served as chair of the pharmaceutical groups from 1994, and was appointed chief operating officer in 1995. With a reputation as a hard taskmaster exerting tight control over his staff, he concentrated on developing the group's brand name and consumer healthcare products. As CEO, Garnier resumed SKB's merger talks with Glaxo Wellcome, an earlier plan having failed in 1998 following a clash between senior executives, and in 2000 the $180 billion deal was announced. There was a shareholder protest, in which about one-third of members voted against the scale of Garnier's proposed pay package as CEO of the enlarged group – £15.5 million in stock options, worth 20 times his salary. Garnier kept SKB's corporate bases in the USA although GSK's worldwide headquarters remains in London. His stewardship of GSK oversaw significant advances in drug research and development, but also controversies over drug safety scares (relating to Avandia and Seroxat), his initial hostility to the provision of cheaper HIV medicines to African countries (although he later softened his stance), and his remuneration (again provoking a shareholder backlash).
Garnier was born in Normandy and spent much of his childhood moving around France with his father, an advertising executive. He received an MS in pharmaceutical science and a PhD in pharmacology from the University of Louis Pasteur in France, and an MBA as a Fulbright Scholar at Stanford University in the USA in 1974. From 1976, Garnier held key management and marketing positions at US pharmaceutical company Schering Plough, including working for overseas subsidiaries in Portugal, Denmark, and Belgium. He moved to the US pharmaceuticals product division as vice president of marketing in 1983. Appointed senior vice-president and general manager in 1987, he rose to become president of the company's US operation in 1989.
He was made Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour by French president Jacques Chirac in 1997 and received the Oliver R Grace Award for distinguished service in advancing cancer research. Garnier is a director of United Technologies Corporation.