LONDON — Sunny Jain, one of Unilever’s management stars and president of its Beauty & Personal Care division, is leaving the consumer goods giant amid a corporate shakeup and reorganization.
Jain, who joined Unilever in 2019 from Amazon, taking over the job left vacant by Unilever’s current chief executive officer Alan Jope, is leaving to set up an investment fund in technology megatrends.
Jain’s departure was part of a broader announcement Tuesday about major organizational changes at Unilever following the company’s failed bid for GlaxoSmithKline’s Consumer Healthcare division. Jain’s job has been eliminated, with the responsibilities split between two newly created divisions, Beauty & Wellbeing and Personal Care.
As reported, GSK rejected three bids from Unilever, the latest of which was valued at 50 billion pounds, on the basis that Unilever undervalued the division, which includes brands such as Sensodyne, Advil and Polident.
Unilever’s share price collapsed last week amid shareholder ire about the bid, which analysts had described as ill-conceived and nonsensical. It bounced back up earlier this week after reports that activist investor Nelson Peltz and his hedge fund Trian Partners had built up a stake in the embattled company.
Trian and Unilever have both declined to confirm, or comment on the reported investment.
Unilever’s share price was broadly flat at 39.44 pounds in early afternoon trading Tuesday, following the shakeup announcement. It closed down 0.1 percent at 39.40 pounds on the London Stock Exchange.
After the markets’ outcry last week, Unilever abandoned its pursuit of GSK, and has now laid out plans to become “a simpler, more category-focused business.” It plans to move away from its current “matrix structure” and will be organized around five business groups: Beauty & Wellbeing; Personal Care; Home Care; Nutrition, and Ice Cream.
Each business group will be “fully responsible and accountable for their strategy, growth and profit delivery globally,” Unilever said.
The proposed organizational model will result in a reduction in senior management roles of around 15 percent and more junior management roles by 5 percent, equivalent to around 1,500 roles globally, the corporate giant, whose products range from face cream to ice cream, confirmed.
Factory teams will not be impacted by the changes, and all costs related to setting up the new organization will be managed within existing restructuring investment plans, according to the company, Unilever said.
Jope, who has been roundly criticized in the British press for pursuing the GSK bid, and whose job is now said to be at risk, said the new organizational model “has been developed over the last year and is designed to continue the step-up we are seeing in the performance of our business.”
Unilever is set to release fourth-quarter and year-end results on Feb. 10.
He added that moving to five category-focused business groups “will enable us to be more responsive to consumer and channel trends, with crystal-clear accountability for delivery. Growth remains our top priority and these changes will underpin our pursuit of this.”
The five business groups will be supported by Unilever Business Operations, which will provide the technology, systems and processes to drive operational excellence across the business. A “lean” Unilever Corporate Center will continue to set the group’s overall strategy, the company said.
As a result of the new set-up, Unilever is making changes to its leadership team, with Fernando Fernandez, executive vice president of Latin America, taking on the newly created role of president of Beauty & Wellbeing, which includes hair care, skin care, as well as vitamins, minerals and supplements, and Unilever Prestige, which includes brands such as Ren, Dermalogica, Kate Somerville and Living Proof.
Fabian Garcia, president of North America, has been appointed president of Personal Care, responsible for skin cleansing, deodorants and oral care.
Peter ter Kulve will continue in his role as president of Home Care; while Hanneke Faber, president of Foods & Refreshment, has been appointed president of the food-focused Nutrition division. Matt Close, executive vice president of Ice Cream, has been named president of Ice Cream.
The appointments are effective from April 1.
Unilever said chief operating officer Nitin Paranjpe will take on a new role as chief transformation officer and chief people officer, leading the business transformation and heading the HR function.
As reported in December, Leena Nair, who spent 30 years at Unilever, most recently as chief human resources officer, is heading to Chanel as global CEO. Her title was previously held by Chanel co-owner Alain Wertheimer.
James Edwardes Jones of Royal Bank of Canada was underwhelmed by the changes.
“We are still not hearing what we want from Unilever,” he said in a report published Tuesday. “The new operating model announced today might make divestments easier, but we would prefer [Unilever] to focus on reinvesting cost savings behind their brands and categories. There are no signs of any culture change yet, given all the new segment heads are Unilever incumbents.”
Edwardes Jones said the new business model “will likely make a major divestment easier,” while the new category of Beauty & Wellbeing “highlights that Unilever has retained its ambitions to gain exposure to the consumer health category.”
He believes Unilever still has to answer some big questions, including where the cost savings are going. “After years of underinvestment, we would hope all cost savings would be redeployed behind innovation and marketing. There is no mention of this however.”
He added that he would like to see “realistic” profit targets set at Unilever, and reiterated the bank’s position that “Unilever risks under-delivering as a result of underinvesting.”
During his short time at Unilever, Jain was buffeted by a series of headwinds — and rose to the challenge. He shepherded Unilever’s largest and most prestigious division through COVID-19 lockdowns, accelerating the beauty brands’ online offer and ramping up the distribution of Unilever’s health and hygiene products across all markets.
Jain’s moves included getting kids to wash their hands so they wouldn’t spread the virus and marketing deodorants to stay-at-home workers who were no longer breaking a sweat on their way to and from the office.
The company partnered with the British government on products aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19, and did a campaign with the hair care brand Clear that looked to help customers manage their mental well-being.
“This has always been an industry of hopes and dreams, and my belief is that beauty and personal care is all about translating the hopes and dreams of our consumers, and other stakeholders, into reality,” said Jain, stressing that, pandemic or not, Unilever always has to be “hyper-relevant” to consumers.
A digital whiz and marketeer, Jain had previously worked at Amazon in Seattle and at Procter & Gamble in Canada and the U.S. At Amazon, he was head of the Core Consumables business unit, responsible for health and personal care, beauty and grooming, luxury beauty, grocery/food, baby, private brands, the Pillpack subsidiary and other innovation teams.
He joined Amazon in 2013 from P&G, where he spent more than 16 years working in new business creation, marketing, sales and information technology. Jain joined Unilever in June 2019 and reported to Jope.
Jope has described Jain’s background as “unique” in that it combines consumer goods, online retail and an understanding of the beauty market. “It makes him exceptionally well suited to help us deliver our growth ambitions for our Beauty & Personal Care division,” Jope said in 2019 on revealing Jain’s appointment.