CFO Gives Up Drugs for Wall Street

AstraZeneca CFO Jon Symonds, known for rapid financial reporting and occasionally expressing his irritation with the SEC, is likely to score big by...
Stephen TaubJune 6, 2007

Drug-maker AstraZeneca announced Wednesday that its CFO has resigned to join Goldman, Sachs as a managing director. The company said Jon Symonds will stay until the end of July; he will begin working at the investment bank in mid-September.

Symonds was a well respected CFO. The former chairman of the Hundred Group of Finance Directors, the body that represents the CFOs and finance directors of the United Kingdom’s largest companies, he also made AstraZeneca the first company to adopt International Financial Reporting Standards. As reported last year, Symonds made AstraZeneca was one of three European firms with the fastest financial reporting turnaround time, providing audited results in just 33 days. But Symonds also made news earlier this year when he and other European CFOs complained about voluminous requests from the Securities and Exchange Commission about how their International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS)–based filings translate into U.S. generally accepted accounting principles. Symonds was among the most vocal, accusing the SEC of setting itself up as “judge and jury” over international companies’ financial statements.

The new job will free him from that particular form of regulatory oversight. It’s also likely to be much more lucrative for Symonds, who earned about $1.9 million last year from salary and bonus. It’s not clear exactly what Symonds will be doing at Goldman and whether he will qualify for the company’s compensation table in next year’s proxy. However, in 2006, the lowest paid Goldman executive officer — vice chairman John Weinberg — received a $16 million bonus and $9 million in restricted stock awards.

Symonds joined Zeneca in 1997 as CFO after 17 years at KPMG. He was credited by the company with playing an instrumental role in the merger negotiations between Zeneca and Swedish pharmaceutical company, Astra. After that merger was completed in 1998, he was appointed CFO for AstraZeneca PLC. The company’s announcement described his legacy as one of “consistent strong financial performance” and “a mature, well structured global finance leadership team.” However, Symonds was passed over for the chief executive job a year and a half ago.

“Jon has played a critical role in driving AstraZeneca to become one of the leading, most focused and most successful pharmaceutical companies in the world,” said David Brennan, CEO, in a statement. “On a personal level, I have worked closely with him for several years and have valued his knowledge of the business, strategic thinking, and wise financial counsel enormously.”

“He carries significant credit both for the success of the merger itself and for AstraZeneca’s sound financial performance since 1998,” said chairman Louis Schweitzer, in a statement. “I regret Jon’s decision to leave AstraZeneca, however, the move to Goldman Sachs represents an exciting career challenge for him and I wish him every success with it.”