Marketer to take over as Unilever boss as CEO Paul Polman steps down

Polman, who has been with the company for a decade, will be replaced by the current president of Unilever’s beauty and personal care division in January.


Unilever’s CEO Paul Polman will retire at the end of this year after a decade at the helm of one of the world’s biggest FMCG companies.

Marketer Alan Jope, who is currently president of Unilever’s beauty and personal care division, will take over from Polman as CEO at the beginning of next year. 

Polman joined Unilever as CEO in 2009. He is a former Procter & Gamble president for Western Europe and has worked at Nestle as CFO and vice-president for the Americas.

He has been widely recognised for his business leadership related to sustainable development, while under his leadership Unilever has increased its focus on the premium beauty market.

The move comes shortly after Unilever’s plan to change its dual-ownership structure and move its HQ to the Netherlands was scrapped. Unilever currently splits the business between London and Rotterdam but the company said the proposal, which Polman spearheaded, would make it more competitive and safer from hostile takeovers. However, fierce criticism form UK investors forced him to abandon the idea.

Unilever’s chairman Marijn Dekkers says: “Paul is an exceptional business leader who has transformed Unilever, making it one of the best-performing companies in its sector and one of the most admired businesses in the world. His role in helping to define a new era of responsible capitalism, embodied in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, marks him out as one of the most far-sighted business leaders of his generation.”

Jope, a Unilever veteran, has lead the beauty and personal care division  since 2014 and will take over as CEO from January 1. Polman will continue working at the company until early July to support the transition process.

Polman says: “I congratulate Alan on his appointment and look forward to working with him on the transition. Having worked closely with Alan for many years, I am highly confident that under his leadership, Unilever will prosper long into the future. His appointment demonstrates the strength of Unilever’s succession planning and talent pipeline.”

Jope joined the company as a graduate marketing trainee in 1985 and has held a number of senior roles including president of Russia, Africa & Middle East. He has been on the company’s leadership executive since 2011. 

He adds: “It will be a huge privilege to lead Unilever – a truly global company full of talented people and brilliant brands. Over the 30 years I have worked at Unilever, I have seen the many ways in which our brands improve people’s lives, positively impacting more than 2 billion citizens every day.

“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.

A successor to Jope will be announced shortly.