LONDON — Unilever has announced that chief executive officer Paul Polman has decided to retire from the company. Alan Jope, currently president, beauty and personal care, has been appointed to the position, effective January 1, 2019, with Polman supporting the transition process during the first half of the year.
Paul Polman has been Unilever CEO for over 10 years and has worked in the consumer goods industry for almost four decades. During his tenure, the company has delivered consistent top and bottom line growth ahead of its markets. Its focus on successfully pioneering a new model of sustainable growth has served the needs of its many stakeholders and created excellent returns for its shareholders, delivering a total shareholder return of 290% over that period.
Jope has led beauty and personal care, Unilever’s largest division, since 2014 and has been on the company’s leadership executive since 2011. He has an excellent track record of leading Unilever’s business in both developed and emerging markets, having run the company’s North Asia business for four years, served as president, Russia, Africa and Middle East, and spent over a decade in senior foods, home care and personal care roles for Unilever U.S. He joined the company as a graduate marketing trainee in 1985.
Unilever chairman Marijn Dekkers commented: “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. 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.
“Paul’s vision, drive and performance focus, combined with his commitment to serving the best long-term interests of the company, have materially strengthened Unilever. He leaves a more agile and resilient company, well placed to win in this fast-changing, dynamic industry. I’d like to thank him personally, and on behalf of the board, for his contribution to Unilever.
“After a rigorous and wide-ranging selection process, the board is delighted to appoint Alan to the role. 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. He is a strong, dynamic and values-driven leader with an impressive track record of delivering consistent high-quality performance. The Board warmly welcomes Alan to the role and wishes him every success.”
Paul Polman said: “I congratulate Alan on his appointment and look forward to working with him on the transition. 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.
“It has been an honor to lead Unilever over the last 10 years. 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,” Polman added.
“It will be a huge privilege to lead Unilever — a truly global company full of talented people, and brilliant brands. Over the 30 years I have worked at Unilever, I have seen the many ways in which our brands improve people’s lives, positively impacting more than 2 billion citizens every day,” said Jope.
“Our global footprint includes strong positions in many important markets for the future and our focus will remain on serving our consumers, and our other multiple stakeholders, to deliver long-term growth and value creation. I’d also like to extend my gratitude to Paul for his remarkable leadership of Unilever and look forward to working closely with him during the transition,” Jope added.
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 the role of president, beauty and personal care will be announced shortly.