Unilever boss steps down after HQ move fiasco

Unilever chief Paul Polman is “retiring” from the consumer giant, the firm said Thursday, a month after it was forced to ditch a controversial post-Brexit plan to move its headquarters from London to the Netherlands.

The Anglo-Dutch group, maker of iconic brands like Marmite and Dove soap, will be headed from January by Alan Jope, the current chief of its huge beauty and personal care department.

“Unilever today announced that CEO Paul Polman has decided to retire from the company,” the company said in a statement, adding that he had been in the post for 10 years.

Polman, 62, tweeted that he had decided to “step down from my role as CEO”, adding: “It’s been a great honour to lead this team for the past 10 years and together build a sustainable business that has made a difference to millions of lives.”

“I have no doubts that I will be leaving the company in excellent hands. Under Alan’s leadership Unilever is well-placed to prosper long into the future.”

Neither Unilever nor Polman made any mention of the headquarters plan, but his position had been in doubt since it fell through on October 5.

Unilever had faced mounting opposition from key shareholders, including Aviva Investors, Royal London, Columbia Threadneedle, Legal & General Investment Management, Lindsell Train, M&G Investments and Brewin Dolphin.

Many were angry that the plan would have ended Unilever’s dual listing on the London and Amsterdam stock exchanges, meaning that many would have had to sell shares in Britain.


The group had originally unveiled the planned switch in March in a symbolic decision that was largely interpreted by analysts as a blow to post-Brexit Britain.

It also followed a failed hostile bid by US rival Kraft Heinz last year, which analysts said played a key role in Unilever’s decision as the Netherlands has stronger rules to protect companies against takeovers.

Jope, who currently leads the firm’s largest division, said it would be a “huge privilege to lead Unilever”.

Polman is due to retire as CEO on December 31 but will stay at the company for six months working on the transition with Jope, the firm said.

© Agence France-Presse

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