Unilever chief executive set to retire at the end of the year after shareholder revolt against plans to scrap dual-listed structure

Joe Curtis
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Paul Polman is retiring after an eventful year for Unilever, which backed down over its ill-received attempt to scrap its dual-listing (Source: Getty)

Unilever’s chief executive is set to step down at the end of the year, the company revealed today.

Paul Polman will retire by the end of 2018, the maker of Dove soap and Marmite said, staying on to help with the transition as the company’s president of beauty and personal care, Alan Jope, takes up the reins from 1 January.

Unilever came under heavy criticism from shareholders for its recent ill-fated attempt to scrap its dual-listed structure and make the Netherlands its primary listing earlier this year.

As shareholder anger mounted, Unilever backed down over the proposal in early October, which would have forced some investors to sell their shares at no premium.

Polman said: “I congratulate Alan on his appointment and look forward to working with him on the transition.

“It has been an honour to lead Unilever over the last 10 years. Throughout this time, I have been humbled by the commitment and hard work of our people, and their passion for creating a truly purpose-driven company.”

Chairman Marijn Dekkers said: "Paul is an exceptional business leader who has transformed Unilever, making it one of the best-performing companies in its sector.

“Paul's vision, drive and performance focus, combined with his commitment to serving the best long-term interests of the company, have materially strengthened Unilever.

Polman’s successor, Jope, is a Unilever veteran, having held a variety of senior management roles over 30 years before his appointment to his current position.

Dekkers said: “Alan has a deep understanding and experience of our business, the industry, and the markets in which we operate. He is a strong, dynamic and values-driven leader with an impressive track record of delivering consistent high-quality performance.”

Jope called the promotion “a huge privilege”, adding: “Our global footprint includes strong positions in many important markets for the future and our focus will remain on serving our consumers, and our other multiple stakeholders, to deliver long-term growth and value creation.”