Unilever hunts for new chair after botched takeover, investor rows

The company has shaken up its top ranks after appointing activist investor Nelson Peltz to the board last year

Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam, Netherlands

Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam, Netherlands


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By Dasha Afanasieva and Sabah Meddings
Unilever Plc has is seeking a new board chair to replace Nils Andersen, continuing an overhaul of its leadership after a series of missteps in recent years frustrated shareholders.
The maker of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Marmite yeast spread has appointed executive search firm Spencer Stuart to lead the search, according to people familiar with the situation. The company has shaken up its top ranks after appointing activist investor Nelson Peltz to the board last year.
Hein Schumacher will become CEO in July, replacing Alan Jope, while Chief Financial Officer Graeme Pitkethly plans to retire next year. Those changes follow a botched attempt to buy GSK Plc’s consumer-health unit more than a year ago.
The search for Andersen’s replacement is well under way, said the people, asking not to be identified discussing confidential matters. Representatives of Unilever and Spencer Stuart declined to comment. 
The 64-year-old has sat on the board since 2015 and took on the chairman role in 2019, meaning his term, under UK corporate governance guidelines, would typically end next year. Earlier this year, he became chairman of chipmaker ASML Holding NV.

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During Andersen’s term as chairman, the company’s total return to investors has trailed far behind that of rival Nestle SA.
Conny Braams,  chief digital and commercial officer, is leaving the board later this year. But more changes in the senior leadership are expected after Schumacher, former CEO of Dutch dairy cooperative Royal FrieslandCampina, takes the helm. 
Last month investors voted down the company’s 2022 remuneration, sending a signal of their exasperation with the non-binding poll. The board is set to engage with shareholders in the coming months. 
The new bosses for the UK-based firm will have to contend with eroding market share as a cost-of-living crisis pushes shoppers to trade down to cheaper store brands. 
Andersen took over as chairman after his predecessor, Marijn Dekkers, stepped down following an unsuccessful effort to unify the company’s headquarters in the Netherlands. The company later reversed course, abandoning its Anglo-Dutch structure to consolidate its base in London.
Topics : Unilever

First Published: Jun 05 2023 | 11:53 PM IST

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