News Column

Board, Shareholders Bid Ex-Gsk's CEO Chidi Okoro Farewell

January 26, 2014

Festus Akanbi

For being instrumental to the success of the company in his four year stint as first indigenous chief executive, the board and management of GSK Consumer Nigeria Plc recently announced the resignation of ChidiOkoro as the company's CEO. The company has also begun the search for a substantive replacement. To corporate organisations the world over, the month of January is more than just the month after the Yuletide. In most cases, especially in Nigeria , it is a month to consolidate on last year's gains and chart a new course based on the comprehensive review of performance, market/sector intelligence of the previous year. Similarly, at the level of individual managers of these business entities, January is usually the month to either jump the ship or move to a new ground. Apart from outright poaching by rival operators in the various sectors of the economy, individual managers may also move when he is sufficiently convinced the time is ripe to pursue other endeavours. This was the scenario painted at a special media parley by the management of GSK Consumer Nigeria Plc , manufacturers and marketers of a wide range of consumer healthcare brands, in Lagos a fortnight ago where the resignation of the company's first indigenous managing director Mr. ChidiOkoro was announced. Chairman of the company's board, Chief OlusegunOsunkeye, who announced Okoro's resignation said the former chief executive was instrumental to the company's strings of successes. No Vacuum Assuring the company's stakeholders that there won't be a vacuum, Osunkeye said, "GSK is robust in its management practices and processes. We have commenced the process of looking for a suitable candidate that will maintain the progress and ambitious growth of the company. We are looking for a person who is competent that we believe can take us into the future. That process means we will look internally (in GSK Nig), candidate in the GSK group and we also throw it open to Nigerians as a whole in order to get the best for the company. But having said that, the strength of GSK is so wide, having appointed a General Manager who will hold forth so there will be no vacuum will while we seek for a new MD. The General Manager was appointed from 10 Jan as GM and will be reporting to the board. He is Justin Korte from South Africa . He is in the GSK group and has good credentials to hit the ground running. He will come before Chidi leaves so the baton can be properly handed over. On whether Okoro's resignation has anything to do with ongoing restructuring exercise in the company, Osunkeye said, "No it doesn't affect that exercise. In the new arrangement where GSK abroad sold its brands worldwide, we arranged that Nigeria was carved out so the brand remains with GSK Nigeria but under a new ownership. The new owner of Lucozade and Ribena is Suntory Foods , a Japanese firm well known in the drink business. They will use this to come into the Nigeria market and grow it further. So for us at GSK Nigeria, nothing has changed. We will continue to produce and distribute Lucozade and Ribena in Nigeria . However, the owner of it is no longer GSK but Suntory. "We are very happy at GSK Nigeria to have made that case when GSK was divesting to carve out Nigeria , which is what has happened. We are expecting further growth in that area and we are very happy. As per the scheme, we have forgotten about the scheme for now. If GSK abroad decides to get more of the shares from the market, it is free to do so like any other shareholder. That is the position where we are now. But, they have also found out that t they are still as committed to the growth of this business. So they are as free like any other person to buy from the open market. That is the position which we are now. Okoro, who is being replaced by Mr. Justin Korte , in acting capacity, said it was time for him to move on to other challenges. "GSK Nigeria has a great future and it is an opportunity for someone new to make their mark on this great business and lead the company into the future. I believe I have played my part in the evolution of our company. It has been an immense learning." Speaking on his legacy in GSK, Okoro said, "If you look at my resume I work for many companies including telecoms. GSK Nigeria is a company that will stand out for me as a great company because of the asset they have. The assets are not just the brands but the people. I joined GSK from MTN 7 years ago and you don't see that kind of crosses every time. For me, the biggest reason I came here was because I saw the asset they have as a company...fantastic people and great global knowledge that they have. What I can call my legacy here is actually bringing in a lot of momentum, energy and drive and bringing the foreign companies to realize that they can bring in all the global assets that they have into Nigeria and work. So if you look at the last 3- 5 yrs, we have launched nearly 50 SKU from Sensodyne to Horlicks to cans to water; we have launched a lot of products. If you look at the vision the board have for the future, there is an attestation to that. We are able, by the work we do here with the board, to showcase the opportunities in the environment, bringing attention to the business and showcased what we can do with the people here. Another legacy is that we are building our people here with a strong talent based. We started a Management Training scheme to train young people, picking up 21-30 years old individuals. I know in another few years, we will have young people under 30 years heading departments. Those are some of the legacy I look up to. I have also taking a lot myself to help me in my future endeavours." The Man Okoro Described as a first class pharmacist, distinguished administrator and transformational leader extraordinaire, Okoro holds a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree obtained from the University of Nigeria , Nsukka in 1987 and an MBA from the University of Lagos in 1997. In 1994, he obtained a Diploma in Marketing from the University of Lagos and later in 2002 attended the Senior Management Programme of the Lagos Business School . He made a career move to the service industry when he joined MTN Nigeria Limited in February 2006 as the company's general manager- business and sales with responsibility for direct sales; management of business sales team and the implementation of MTN's business sales strategy. A one-time accredited trainer in the area of general management for Promasidor Nigeria Limited , Okoro is a respected member of Nigerian Marketing Association and Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria . He joined GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Nigeria Plc as sales director in May 2007 and in that year, grew annual sales by more than 20%. He was a member of the team that delivered the company's turnover of N9.9 billion in 2007, which has since propelled to an all-time high of N15billion as at December 31, 2009 . As part of the GSK's strategic plan to place proven Nigerians at various key positions as well as at the helm of the company's management, the board of directors of GSK Consumer Nig. Plc appointed Okoro as Managing Director of the company effective April 1, 2010 , the first Nigerian to hold the position of Managing Director of GSK Consumer Nig. Plc since inception in 1971.

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Source: AllAfrica

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