Unilever has announced CEO Alan Jope’s decision to retire from the company at the end of 2023, after five years at the helm.
The announcement comes less than a year after a failed attempt by Unilever to buy GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer healthcare business and just months after activist investor Nelson Peltz joined the company’s board.
Jope has held various leadership roles at Unilever, including president North Asia, president Africa, Russia and the Middle East, and president of the beauty and personal care division.
Unilever chairman, Nils Andersen, said: “Alan’s retirement next year will mark the end of a remarkable career with Unilever. Under his leadership, Unilever has made critical changes to its strategy, structure and organisation that position it strongly for success. This work continues, and we will thank Alan wholeheartedly for his leadership and contribution to our business when he leaves next year.”
The board will now start a formal search for a replacement for Jope, considering both internal and external candidates.
Jope commented: “As I approach my fifth year as CEO, and after more than 35 years in Unilever, I believe now is the right time for the board to begin the formal search for my successor. Growth remains our top priority, and in the quarters ahead, I will remain fully focused on disciplined execution of our strategy and leveraging the full benefits of our new organisation.”
Earlier this year, Unilever abandoned an attempt to buy the consumer health arm of GlaxoSmithKline, after making three approaches that were rejected.
According to Reuters, the move was disapproved of by shareholders, some of whom also criticised Unilever for prioritising sustainability over core growth.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Tineke Frikee, fund manager at Unilever investor Waverton Asset Management, said: “This may signal more welcome future change at Unilever”.
Frikee, who is cited by Reuters, continued: “The unappealing plan to buy consumer healthcare from GlaxoSmithKline has tainted Mr Jope’s track record somewhat, so a fresh start from a new CEO could convince investors Unilever’s momentum is trending upwards again”.
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