AstraZeneca chief stuck Down Under in race back to UK


AstraZeneca boss returning to Europe from Australian home as he battles public relations crisis over firm’s Covid vaccine

  • Pascal Soriot has spent three months Down Under, where his family lives, after spending Christmas there 
  • He remained in Sydney due to lockdown restrictions even as his UK company became embroiled in its row with the EU over supplies of the jab 
  • It is said to have prompted questions about whether the chief executive was spending enough time in Britain 

The boss of AstraZeneca is to fly back to Europe from his Australian home as he battles a public relations crisis over the firm’s Covid vaccine. 

Pascal Soriot has spent three months Down Under, where his family lives, after spending Christmas there. 

He remained in Sydney due to lockdown restrictions even as his UK company became embroiled in its row with the EU over supplies of the jab. 

Questions: A source at AstraZeneca said Pascal Soriot would return to Britain as soon as lockdown restrictions lift

Questions: A source at AstraZeneca said Pascal Soriot would return to Britain as soon as lockdown restrictions lift

It is said to have prompted questions about whether the chief executive was spending enough time in Britain. Allies insist he is managing the firm effectively remotely. 

A source at the firm said Soriot, 61, would return to Britain as soon as lockdown restrictions lift. 

It comes after European politicians, including French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel, criticised AstraZeneca for failing to deliver millions of vaccine doses it was said to have promised. Some even accused it of ‘dishonesty’ and favouritism towards Britain. 

The firm, which said it would not make a profit from the vaccine, has rejected this and insists it is doing all it can to produce the bloc’s doses. 

French-born Soriot has been running the drugs giant from his home and an office at one of its plants nearby. 

He is a naturalised citizen of Australia and moved there with his family in 1990. It is where his two children and grandchild live. 

Insiders at AstraZeneca said Soriot was working ‘European business hours’ and his ability to manage the firm was not hampered by having to communicate by video-conference or phone. Although he is thought to have the support of the board, he has faced calls from other quarters to resign. 

Peter Bach, director of the Center for Health Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, warned that disputed figures in vaccine data published by AstraZeneca could undermine confidence in the firm’s jab and cause a public health ‘catastrophe’. 

Top-20 shareholder Royal London has rallied to Soriot’s defence, however, saying his efforts during the pandemic had been ‘heroic’. 

One unnamed investor said the firm was being ‘treated unfairly’, and the row was sure to ‘blow over’.

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