As the calendar year draws to a close, the UK government is busy readying the next list of individuals who are to be honored as members of the Order of the British Empire. These honors are bestowed on people from all walks of life who have somehow made a difference in their community. And there are various types of awards, including knighthood, that recognize a different type of contribution.
The list, however, is a closely guarded secret. Presumably, even Rupert Murdoch employees would have a hard time hacking into the treasured line up of nominees. But one name that may be under consideration is Andrew Witty, the ceo at GlaxoSmithKline. Our sources say that Glaxo minions have been encouraged to find ways to hone his image in hopes that he becomes Sir Andrew.
A spokeswoman for the UK's Cabinet Office would not discuss particulars. "We don’t discuss any list beforehand and it's strictly embargoed," she tells us. "We’re going through the process now and the nominations are coming in and going to the various committees...But the list is never finalized until the Queen sees it" (you can read about the honors process here).
A Glaxo spokeswoman declined to comment. After all, it would not be good to manners to preempt the Queen and chat about such aspirations. However, anyone can be nominated to the lists - another is announced each June in connection with the Queen's birthday - so reaching the exalted status one so desires can be a difficult feat. However, striking the right profile, among other things, may help.
As for Witty, he has been studious about polishing his creds. Although the UK-based drugmaker is no different than any of its rivals when it comes to shedding jobs and plants in order to cuts costs, Witty has made a point of repeatedly expressing his commitment to maintaining as much work in the UK as possible, as he did earlier this year in an interview with SKY News.
"We're a British company. We're committed to Britain. We're focused on trying to create jobs in the UK and trying to be a good citizen of the UK," he says in discussing a commitment to build another manufacturing and R&D facility there, as well as creating a venture capital fund devoted to developing British biopharma start ups (watch here).
Another endeavor that may generate the sort of needed goodwill is a Glaxo initiative to develop a vaccine to combat malaria (read this). A recent clinical trial halved the risk of African children contracting the disease and the results garnered significant attention worldwide. And Witty was seen on the day of the announcement discussing costs and access in poor countries on PBS (watch here).
Of course, some may say he is merely a royal pain. Just ask Chris Viehbacher, who lost a horse race three years ago to succeed JP Garnier at Glaxo after being outmaneuvered by Witty, who is said to be an astute lobbyist. As a consolation prize, Viehbacher was given about $5 million in stock and a seat on the board, but as we know, he left to run Sanofi. All hail the Queen.