CEO Alan Jope
CEO Alan JopeBloomberg

Unilever CEO to quit at 2023-end as investors question credibility

The British consumer products maker said on Monday its board would start a formal search for a successor to Jope, who took up his role at the start of 2019, considering both internal and external candidates.

LONDON: Unilever said CEO Alan Jope would retire at the end of 2023, announcing the move less than a year after a bungled attempt to buy GSK’s consumer healthcare business, and two months after activist investor Nelson Peltz joined the board.

The British consumer products maker said on Monday its board would start a formal search for a successor to Jope, who took up his role at the start of 2019, considering both internal and external candidates.

Unilever’s search begins at a time of soaring food and energy prices which are hitting household budgets and hurting consumer confidence. The company will be looking for a new CEO at the same time as rival Reckitt, the maker of Dettol products and Finish dish soap.

Unilever has had a rocky start to the year after mounting three bids for the consumer health arm of GlaxoSmithKline , - one for as much as 50 billion pounds ($53.14 billion).

The move was met with disapproval from shareholders, some of whom also criticised Unilever for prioritising sustainability over core growth.

“This may signal more welcome future change at Unilever,” Tineke Frikee, fund manager at Unilever investor Waverton Asset Management, said.

“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.”

The company in January also announced plans to cut about 1,500 management jobs and reshape its business to focus on five main product areas, days after it was revealed that Peltz, via his Trian Partners vehicle, had built a stake in Unilever.

Trian in a statement said it was sorry to learn of Jope’s decision to retire.

“As a board member, Trian’s CEO Nelson Peltz looks forward to continuing to work closely with Alan until his departure and to being part of the process of choosing a new leader for the company,” it added.

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