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CEO Polman to retire from consumer products giant Unilever

November 29, 2018
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In this Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, file photo Unilever CEO Paul Polman speaks at the Bloomberg Global Business Forum in New York. The Anglo-Dutch company announced Polman's retirement by the end of 2018 early Thursday, the announcement comes months after Unilever, under pressure from shareholders, reversed a decision to consolidate its headquarters in Rotterdam.(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Paul Polman, CEO of consumer products multinational Unilever, whose brands include Dove soaps and Lipton tea, is retiring at the end of the year, the company said Thursday.

The Anglo-Dutch company said Polman will be succeeded from Jan. 1 by Alan Jope, currently president of Unilever’s Beauty and Personal Care division.

Polman’s retirement ends 10 years at the helm of Unilever, a tenure in which he was keen to stress the need for sustainability while also driving up the company’s share price.

The announcement comes months after Unilever, under pressure from shareholders, reversed a decision to consolidate its headquarters in Rotterdam. The company has two head offices, in the Dutch city and in London and is listed on stock markets in both countries.

Michael Hewson, chief market analyst at CMC Markets UK, said the change of CEO “allows senior management to renew the relationship with their major shareholders which was damaged by the listing row.”

Polman was also in charge when Unilever rejected a $143 billion takeover offer from rival Kraft Heinz early last year.

Reg Watson, equities analyst at ING, said he does not expect major shifts in the company’s course under its new CEO.

“It will be much of the same, I think,” he said. “A company as large as Unilever, it’s like a supertanker - you don’t turn it on a sixpence.”

Unilever Chairman Marijn Dekkers paid tribute to Polman, calling him an exceptional business leader.

“His role in helping to define a new era of responsible capitalism, embodied in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, marks him out as one of the most far-sighted business leaders of his generation,” Dekkers said.

Polman will help Jope settle into his new role during the first half of next year.

The 54-year-old Jope is a career executive with Unilever, having joined the company as a trainee in 1985. Since then he has risen through the ranks and held senior management positions with Unilever in China, the United States and the Russia, Africa and Middle East region.

“He has an excellent track record of leading Unilever’s business in both developed and emerging markets,” the company said.

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