LONDON — Consumer goods executive Hein Schumacher has been named chief executive officer of Unilever, and will take over from Alan Jope on July 1, the company said.
Schumacher is currently CEO of Royal FrieslandCampina, an international dairy and nutrition business with 11 billion euros in annual turnover. He was named a non-executive director of Unilever, owner of brands including Dove, Vaseline and Ben & Jerry’s, last year.
He began his career at Unilever, in the financial department, and has previously worked at companies including H.J. Heinz, where he spent 10 years and oversaw the restructuring of that company in Asia Pacific.
Schumacher, a married father of three, will earn a base salary of 1.85 million euros, and be entitled to annual bonus and shareholder awards. He will be named CEO designate on June 1. After a one-month handover period, he’ll take over the top role.
Unilever shares closed up 1.3 percent at 40.72 pounds on Monday.
Analysts offered mixed opinions about the appointment.
Bernstein said the investors it spoke to in recent weeks had been “hopeful for a more familiar name from a successful U.S.-based [fast moving consumer goods] turnaround. A Dutch dairy co-operative is probably not what they had in mind.”
RBC Capital Markets said it welcomed the choice of Schumacher, and believes Unilever “needs a cultural and organizational shake up. That said, we think it will be a while before any results materialize at Unilever. It usually takes about 18 months before we see evidence of improved execution and a re-rating of the shares of a consumer staples company.”
Unilever had been hunting for a new CEO since Jope revealed his resignation last September following a turbulent year.
As reported, Unilever made a botched attempt to purchase GlaxoSmithKline’s Consumer Health business, which is now a public company called Haleon and quoted on the London Stock Exchange.
Unilever’s move — and the high price it was willing to pay for the division — irked shareholders, tarnished Jope’s image and saw Unilever’s share price collapse. GSK rejected three bids from Unilever in late 2021, the final one valued at 50 billion pounds.
As that drama was unfolding, the activist investor Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management made an investment of nearly $2 billion in Unilever, and in the summer of 2022 Peltz joined the board as a non-executive director.
Financial analysts had been hoping that the savvy, experienced Peltz would work closely with management, as he did with Procter & Gamble a few years ago, to help spur growth in key product divisions.
Following the failed bid for GSK, Unilever also shook up its way of working and restructured its management teams in order to become “a simpler, more category-focused business.”
It has moved away from its former “matrix structure” and is now organized around five business groups: Beauty & Wellbeing, Personal Care, Home Care, Nutrition and Ice Cream.
Each business group is “fully responsible and accountable for their strategy, growth and profit delivery globally,” according to Unilever.
The new model resulted 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.