Unilever has announced chief executive Paul Polman will retire at the end of the year in the wake of shareholder pressure over controversial plans to move its post-Brexit headquarters overseas.
Last month that Unilever u-turned on its proposals to head to the Netherlands, decided it would remain in the UK after Brexit amid pressure from activist shareholders ranging from Columbia Threadneedle, Schroders , Legal & General, M&G, Aviva Investors, Lindsell Train and Brewin Dolphin.
Polman announced plans to retire this morning and will be replaced by current divisional head Alan Jope.
Polman will step down as chief executive and from Unilever’s board on 31 December and support the position’s handover process for first half of 2019.
The company’s is continuing to see fallout from investors after its decision to abandon plans to abandon its plans to ditch its joint Anglo-Dutch structure, however.
The Share Centre research analyst Ian Forrest says: “The plan caused some controversy as it meant that shareholders holding all of their shares through a broker or other nominee arrangement would be unable to vote at a key stage.
“Polman has presided over a long period of growth at the company but the change is a good one for investors and probably inevitable given that several large institutional shareholders disagreed strongly with the changes to the legal structure.”
Jope will assume the chief executive position from 1 January and is currently the head of the company’s beauty and personal care division.
He has been on Unilever’s leadership executive since 2011 and has spent the majority of his professional career with the company, having joined Unilever Home and Personal Care in 2001.
Commenting on his appointment, Polman says: “This demonstrates the strength of Unilever’s succession planning and talent pipeline. Having worked closely with Alan for many years, I am highly confident that under his leadership, Unilever will prosper.”