Multinational consumer goods giant Unilever has announced that its CEO is to retire from the company.
Paul Polman has been Unilever CEO for over a decade, and has over four decades experience in the consumer goods sector. According to a company announcement, that tenure has been a positive one for Unilever's shareholders, with a total shareholder return of 290% over the period.
Alan Jope, leader of Unilever’s Beauty & Personal Care division since 2014, has been appointed to replace Polman, effective 1 January 2019.
“I congratulate Alan on his appointment and look forward to working with him on the transition,” Polman said, in a statement.
“Having worked closely with Alan for many years, I am highly confident that under his leadership, Unilever will prosper long into the future. His appointment demonstrates the strength of Unilever’s succession planning and talent pipeline.”
Polman will retire as CEO and as a Board member on 31 December 2018. He will support the transition process in the first half of 2019 and will leave the company in early July. A successor to Jope as head of Beauty & Personal Care has yet to be announced.
A number of media outlets are drawing links between the announcement of Polman’s retirement and a recent proposal to consolidate Unilever’s headquarters in Rotterdam to simplify its corporate structure.
That proposal ultimately failed, after what the Financial Times describes as a ‘bruising fight’ between Polman and shareholders.
The Guardian describes the disagreement as a shareholder rebellion, and “a significant blow to the credibility of its top executives, Polman and the chair, Marijn Dekkers.”
According to the BBC, Unilever is one of the biggest firms in the UK's FTSE 100 share index, valued at about £124bn. Among its consumer goods portfolio are a number of products packaged in aerosols. These include compressed deodorants, a range of products launched in 2013 which the company described as its biggest innovation in deodorants in over 50 years.