Unilever CEO retires after HQ move blocked by shareholders

The British-Dutch consumer goods company’s share price remained steady on Thursday despite longstanding CEO Paul Polman stepping down months after shareholders blocked his plan to scrap Unilever’s London headquarters.

Unilever CEO Paul Polman
Source: Bloomberg

Unilever CEO Paul Polman has decided to step down after 10 years at the company, with President of Beauty & Personal Care Alan Jope taking over his position, effective on 1 January 2019.

The British-Dutch consumer goods company’s share held steady despite the news of Polman’s departure at the end of the year, with it up 0.5% this morning to $56.03.

‘It has been an honour to lead Unilever over the last 10 years,’ Polman said. ‘Throughout this time, I have been humbled by the commitment and hard work of our people, and their passion for creating a truly purpose-driven company. I am very grateful to them, as I am to Unilever’s many other stakeholders, with whom we have worked to build our long-term, sustainable business.’

‘I look forward to engaging with many of these partners – in a different capacity – to help address the many environmental and social challenges facing the world,’ he added.

Shareholders block Polman’s HQ plan

Polman’s decision to retire comes a little less than two months after his proposal to scrap the company’s London headquarters and leave the business solely based in Rotterdam was blocked by shareholders.

Investors in the company contended that the plan, if it had gone ahead, would have forced British shareholders to sell their shares.

The plan was meant to simplify Unilever’s corporate structure, but instead ended up creating a rift between some shareholders and certain members of the management team, which likely helped Polman in deciding to retire.

Unilever looks ahead with new CEO

Polman’s replacement has led the beauty and personal care division – the company’s largest unit – since 2014 and has a strong track record of driving growth in emerging markets, having run the company’s North Asia business for four years, served as President, Russia, Africa & Middle East, and spent over a decade in senior Foods, Home Care and Personal Care roles for Unilever US.

Unilever Chairman Marijn Dekkers said: ‘Paul is an exceptional business leader who has transformed Unilever, making it one of the best-performing companies in its sector, and one of the most admired businesses in the world.

‘After a rigorous and wide-ranging selection process, the Board is delighted to appoint Alan to the role,’ he added. ‘Having worked for Unilever in a variety of senior management roles, Alan has a deep understanding and experience of our business, the industry, and the markets in which we operate.’

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