UK – The British pharmaceutical and consumer goods company, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has announced that company chairman Philip Hampton will be stepping down from his role in the middle of a possible split of its business.

Hampton will be leaving the company after more than three and a half years as chairman even as he succumbs pressure from investors who have expressed dissatisfaction with company’s performance and share price.

Before joining GSK, Hampton was chairman of Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and J Sainsbury plc.

GSK, which is looking to buy early-stage assets and partner with companies, said it had started the search for a successor.

According to people familiar with the matter identified by Financial Times, search for Sir Philip’s successor will take up to nine months as the firm looks to turn around its pharma and biotech sector.

 “Following the announcement of our deal with Pfizer and the intended separation of the new consumer business, I believe this is the right moment to step down and allow a new chair to oversee this process,” said Sir Philip in a statement.

As the pharma company looks to return to profitability, the next chairman may be tasked to ensure it performed based on investor interests.

GSK chief executive Emma Walmsley last year unveiled plans to split the firm into two businesses — one for prescription drugs and vaccines, the other for over-the-counter products.

According to her, this would be done through a creating a new £9.8 billion (US412.79 billion) consumer health business through a joint venture with US rival Pfizer.

Analysts suggest that the move will create a consumer health giant with a market share of 7.3%, well ahead of its nearest rivals Johnson & Johnson, Bayer and Sanofi, all on around 4%.

The bold move by the CEO who took helm last year was linked to pressure from investors who had called for the split of the business for years.

The consumer tie-up follows a deal by GSK earlier this year to buy Novartis’s stake in their consumer joint venture for US$13 billion and comes as Walmsley tries to reshape Britain’s biggest drug maker.