LONDON — Unilever has named Alan Jope chief executive officer of Unilever, capping a tumultuous year for the personal care, food and home products company and parent of brands ranging from Dove to Ben & Jerry’s.
Polman had already announced his plans to retire, and his last year in the job was marred by Unilever’s botched plans to move its corporate entity to the Netherlands and eliminate the dual corporate structure in London and Rotterdam. The company remains headquartered in both countries and is quoted on the London Stock Exchange and in Amsterdam.
Jope is currently president, beauty and personal care, Unilever’s largest division, and had long been mooted as a frontrunner for the job. The company said Thursday that Polman would support the transition process during the first half of next year.
The 54-year-old executive has led the beauty and personal care division since 2014, according to Unilever.
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He joined the company as a graduate marketing trainee in 1985, and has experience both in developed and emerging markets, having run the company’s North Asia business for four years and served as president, Russia, Africa and Middle East. He spent more than a decade in senior foods, home-care and personal-care roles for Unilever in the U.S.
Jope has also been instrumental in building up Unilever’s higher-end beauty portfolio in recent years with acquisitions such as hair-care brand Living Proof, and skin-care brands Murad, Kate Somerville and Ren.
“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,” said Unilever chairman Marijn Dekkers.
“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.”
Polman had been Unilever ceo for more than 10 years and had worked in the consumer goods industry for almost four decades. Although the company delivered consistent top and bottom line growth ahead of its markets and delivered a total shareholder return of 290 percent over that period, Polman’s tenure was marked by upset over the past few years.
Earlier this year, Unilever was forced to shelve a much-touted decision to consolidate operations and move to the Netherlands after major institutional shareholders said they would vote against the proposal.
Last year, the Kraft Heinz Co. made a surprise $143 takeover bid for Unilever, but withdrew it after Unilever spurned the advances. Unilever later undertook a major audit, simplifying its internal structure and selling underperforming brands.
On Thursday, the company said Polman will retire as ceo and as a board member on Dec. 31. 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.