Unilever has appointed Alan Jope, personal care manager, to succeed Paul Polman as general manager. He chose a safe pair of hands to lead the consumer goods giant after a turbulent period.
Jope, 54, represents continuity at the soap maker Dove and Ben & Jerry ice cream. He succeeds Polman, who is 62 years old, has rejected an unwanted public tender offer of Kraft Heinz Co. and has given up a plan to consolidate the headquarters of the Anglo-Dutch company in Rotterdam after the investor revolt .
Shares climbed 0.6% Thursday morning in Amsterdam and rose about 5% for the year.
The appointment of Jope, which seeks to increase Unilever's profitability by creating a division called Prestige, with premium skin care brands such as Ren and Dermalogica, comes at a time when activist investors and Companies such as Kraft Heinz are pushing the industry to increase its profits. margins. Polman, who has been running the company for nearly a decade, has been one of the biggest advocates for corporate sustainability.
Jope brings a digital sensibility to the CEO suite, having pushed the use of new marketing tools to connect with millennial consumers. Last year, he founded a technology center in the Tribeca neighborhood of New York, specializing in online communication for brands such as Dove and Ax Shower Gel. The information collected from this team has also been used to support new brands such as Love Beauty and Planet, an eco-friendly personal care line.
Jope was leading Unilever's operations in China, whose performance as CEOs pending have been hailed by Polman. The executive also has experience in the company's food business, which allows them to master both of their key business areas. Market speculation also focused on other internal candidates, such as CFO Graeme Pitkethly and Nitin Paranjpe, chief of catering and refreshments, as well as external choices that could have guided the company in a new direction.
Naming Jope is not "an appointment with an external rock star, which could disappoint some," said RBC analyst Edward Edward Jones in a note.
Last year, the personal care products division was the largest in the company, with sales of 20.7 billion euros (23.6 billion USD), almost double the industry's and a little less than half of the company's total turnover. The unit has become a fertile ground for British CEOs, with former chief Dave Lewis having been appointed to lead Tesco Plc in 2014.
Under Polman, Unilever reorganized its portfolio with the acquisition of niche brands such as organic tea maker Pukka Herbs and Sir Kensington condiments, rivaling Nestle SA to take advantage of consumer demand for healthier and safer products. higher value as traditional brands stagnate.
The decision on the new CEO, which followed a year-long search, was finalized Wednesday at a board meeting at Unilever's North American headquarters in New Jersey. The appointment comes into effect on January 1 st. Polman will support the transition in the first half of 2019, the company said.
Polman has been one of the most virulent advocates in the business community to align his profits with his social goals. He was sometimes criticized for not focusing enough on shareholder returns, but last year he responded by saying that the underlying share price gains were greater than Warren Buffett's, one of the biggest investors of Kraft Heinz.
Unilever's share in London rose 159% in London, compared to 154% for Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. over the same period. Today, Polman's yields are 170%, against 236% for Buffett.
"Just like one of Unilever's most prominent products, Marmite, Polman arouses widely divergent opinions among investors," said Andrew Wood, an analyst at Bernstein in a note. "We consider that Polman has been a very good CEO of Unilever."
By Thomas Buckley and Eric Pfanner