Unilever Dr (EU:UNA)
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De May 2018 a May 2020
By Saabira Chaudhuri
Unilever PLC, the maker of Hellmann's mayonnaise and Dove soap, named Alan Jope to replace longtime chief executive Paul Polman as it, like the rest of the industry, struggles to navigate a sharp shift in consumer tastes.
Unilever had signaled the imminent retirement of Mr. Polman. The appointment of Mr. Jope, a longtime Unilever executive who heads the beauty and personal-care business, comes amid the company's push under Mr. Polman to bolster that higher-margin business and pivot away from slower-growing food.
The job is one of the highest-profile posts in corporate Europe. The leadership change is also the latest in a series of high-profile departures of consumer-goods bosses -- an unprecedented changing of the guard as the industry faces down a raft of challenges. Among these is a broad-based retreat by consumers in many big western markets from the well-known brands the industry has made and marketed for decades.
The industry also is grappling with rising commodity costs, volatile emerging markets and fierce competition from Amazon.com Inc. and discount chains that are increasingly launching own-label products.
Unilever itself has been searching for new leadership for a year, hiring an executive search firm last November to help find a successor to Mr. Polman, who has led the company for a decade.
That effort had stepped up of late after Mr. Polman failed to win investor support for a move to consolidate the company's British and Dutch operating units and make Rotterdam its sole headquarters, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Mr. Jope, 54, was seen by analysts as a leading candidate to be Unilever's next CEO.
He has led the company's largest division since 2014 and regularly presents to investors. He previously has worked for the company in Asia and the U.S. after joining the company as a graduate marketing trainee in 1985.
Mr. Jope will start his new job as CEO on Jan. 1 with Mr. Polman staying on to assist with the transition through the first half of next year, the company said.
Under Mr. Polman's leadership, Unilever has shifted more toward faster-growing segments in personal and home care while jettisoning lagging food businesses like spreads and pasta sauce. Notable acquisitions include hair and beauty brand Alberto Culver, online razor-delivery startup Dollar Shave Club and Australian tea business T2. Those and a string of other small deals in areas like high-end skin care and upscale condiments have been broadly welcomed by investors, with Unilever's stock outperforming rivals in recent years.
Mr. Polman, a former P&G and Nestlé executive, also last year fended off a $143 billion takeover approach from Kraft Heinz Co. Since then he has launched share buybacks, raised margin targets and tried to make the company more agile and responsive to local competition.
Write to Saabira Chaudhuri at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 29, 2018 03:59 ET (08:59 GMT)
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