British consumer goods group Reckitt Benckiser shocked investors by saying its 54-year old star chief executive Bart Becht is to retire and be replaced by Reckitt veteran Rakesh Kapoor, sending its shares sharply lower.
Marketing chief Kapoor, who has been with Reckitt for 25 years, will become chief executive on 1 Sept, with Becht staying on as part-time adviser and on the company's board until September 2012 to ensure a smooth transition.
Reckitt said on Thursday Becht would focus on his charitable work and look at non-executive directorships after over 11 years at the head of the group, but he was not looking at any future chief executive positions.
"Bart thinks it is a good time to step down. His team is the best he's ever had, he's done a major acquisition in SSL and has weathered the initial storm of recession, so there are no major issues around," said a Reckitt spokeswoman.
His replacement, the 52-year old Kapoor, started work with Reckitt in India and then ran its healthcare business in northern Europe before becoming its chief marketing guru for the last five years in charge of driving growth at its 19 top brands such as Cillit Bang cleaners and Nurofen painkillers.
Becht has led Reckitt since its formation from Reckitt & Colman's takeover of Benckiser in December 1999, and its shares have been one of the best performers in the FTSE 100 index .FTSE over the last decade, helping to make Becht the highest paid chief executive in the FTSE 100 in 2009.
City A.M. Reporter