Alan Jope, who has been Unilever CEO since 2019, is set to retire next year as a failed acquisition and the difficult market situation take their toll.
Move to London
It is the right time to start looking for a successor, Jope has told his company. The Scotsman took over from Paul Polman in January 2019, but will retire as early as the end of 2023. Jope will then have been with Unilever for almost forty years, having joined the company in 1985 as a trainee.
Jope’s previous roles include President of the Beauty & Personal Care division and Head of its China and Russia operations. Under his administration as CEO, Unilever moved entirely to the UK, ending the bi-national identity the group had enjoyed since 1929. After the merger between Dutch Margarine Unie and British soap maker Lever Brothers, Unilever had head offices in both London and Rotterdam.
Jope also carried out a major reorganisation this year to simplify Unilever’s management structure, cutting at least 1,500 jobs worldwide. “Under his leadership, Unilever has made critical changes to its strategy, structure and organisation that position it strongly for success”, board chairman Nils Andersen told FT.
However, shareholders are less enthusiastic about other things. The ambitious attempt to buy the consumer division of Sensodyne maker GlaxoSmithKline for fifty billion pounds failed and operating results are under pressure. Unilever recently had to admit that consumers are also looking for cheaper alternatives due to rising prices. “Growth remains our top priority, and in the quarters ahead I will remain fully focused on disciplined execution of our strategy”, the departing CEO said.