AstraZeneca Sues Executive After Rival Glaxo Lures Him Away

(Bloomberg) -- AstraZeneca Plc filed a lawsuit in a London court against former executive Luke Miels saying he’s in violation of his employment agreement, four months after rival drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline Plc announced it was poaching him to run its largest business.

Miels should be required to abide by the terms of his contract, the Cambridge, England-based company said in an email Monday. Details of the lawsuit, filed May 10, weren’t available. AstraZeneca didn’t disclose the specific terms that have allegedly been breached.

Glaxo Chief Executive Officer Emma Walmsley chose Miels, her first key hire, to run the drugs business at a critical juncture: the executive would be responsible for decisions on which experimental medicines to pursue in its early-stage pipeline as the company strives to become more competitive. Glaxo appointed him in January as president of global pharmaceuticals to succeed Abbas Hussain.

Miels was AstraZeneca’s executive vice president for Europe. He is currently on gardening leave, a spokeswoman for the drugmaker said in the statement.

Glaxo last month signaled that it faced snags in getting Miels on board. Walmsley at that time told analysts that the company was still in talks with AstraZeneca and hoped to reach a resolution as soon as possible.

“Luke is a very talented individual that we’ve appointed to lead our pharmaceuticals business,” Glaxo said in a statement on Monday. “We look forward to welcoming him to GSK in due course.”

Glaxo’s new chief pledged last month to make the pharmaceutical business a top priority. The company wants to bring its commercial team into discussions with the research and development group much earlier in the process as part of an effort to ensure better returns on investment and bigger launches of new products, Walmsley said.

The case is: AstraZeneca UK Limited v. Luke Miels in the U.K. High Court of Justice, Queens Bench Division, HQ17X01601