New Reckitt Benckiser chief has customer insight “in his blood”

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Reckitt Benckiser CEO Bart Becht is retiring after a decade and handing over the reigns to fellow RB lifer Rakesh Kapoor. The company looks set to continue its marketing and brand driven approach.

Becht is credited for transforming Reckitt Benckiser from a small player in the healthcare market into a global FMCG business through a strategy of fast, brand focussed growth and acquisitions.

In 2010, the company reported a 9% increase in sales to £8.5bn and a 13% rise in profit to £2.1bn.

Becht spearheaded Reckitt Benckiser’s focus on growing its portfolio of Powerbrands after joining the company as a marketer and quickly progressing to a general manager role with responsibility for marketing, sales and profit and loss (P&L) in the Canadian business.

His successor, Rakesh Kapoor has followed a similar trajectory through the business and a spokesperson says that “customer insight is in his blood” meaning that consumer lead decision making will be core to his leadership.

In his 24 years at Reckitt Benckiser, has held a number of marketing roles including stints in the company’s Indian business and as UK based global marketing director between 1997-99 during which time he developed RB’s global category organisation and portfolio strategy.

In his most recent role as executive vice president for category development where he ahs been responsible for global marketing, R&D, market research, product design, marketing strategy, media and digital marketing.

Kapoor has also been the driving force behind RB’s Powerbrand and innovation strategies and has grown the Powerbrand portfolio, which includes Vanish and Cillit Bang, to account for 69% of its revenue, up from 57% five years ago.

More than 30% of RB’s sales now come from product innovations launched in the last three years.

While Kapoor’s feet are firmly planted in the marketing camp, his expertise is complemented by significant profit and loss responsibility leading RB’s UK and European healthcare business and making it one of the company’s “largest and most profitable” divisions.

Despite being relatively unknown to the City, Kapoor is the next phase in RB’s carefully planned succession strategy tasked with leading the FMCG company’s global strategy to drive the growth of its health and personal care business.

Becht’s impact on the business has been well documented in the firm’s financial performance and the news of his retirement sent RB share price down 7%. The company, however, says the drop was expected because “the market loathes change”. A spokesperson says the company is confident that share price will bounce back because the business is bigger than the impact of one man.

Timeline

1823 Benckiser industrial chemicals founded by Johann A. Benckiser.

1840 Diversifies into other household products

1995 Reckitt & Colman sells the Colman’s food business.

1999 Reckitt & Colman and Benckiser merge to become Reckitt Benckiser and claim to be “the world Number 1 in household cleaning”
2005 Launch of Cillit Bang in 68 countries

2006 Acquired Boots Healthcare International and brands including Strepsils, Nurofen and Lemsip, for £1.9m

2008 Acquired Adams Respiratory Therapeutics and entered the US over-the-counter market with cough remedy Mucinex

2009 Relaunched corporate brand identity to reflect ’The Power behind the Powerbrands’

2010 Acquired SSL International and adds Durex and Scholl bringing the portfolio of Power Brands to 19.
– Acquired Indian healthcare firm Paras Pharmaceuticals
– Brought marketing for its household, personal care and healthcare under marketing director Stefan Gaa
– Bart Becht retires, succeeded by Rakesh Kapoor

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