Polman’s tenure with the company has been long by the standards of contemporary ceos said Julian Wild, partner at law firm Rollits, and could be replaced within the next 12 months.
“Views on Polman are mixed. He has certainly had a marked impact on what was a lumbering giant and company financial performance has generally been good,” said Wild.
“But his style has been one of long-term strategic direction ahead of short-term goals and this may not have been fast enough for some investors.”
Wild’s comments came as Unilever brought in headhunters Egon Zehnder to prepare the board of directors to start the search for a new ceo, according to a Sky News report.
Start the search for a new ceo
Unilever was more likely to appoint an internal, rather than external, candidate for the role, said Wild.
“My guess is that there will be lots of pressure to appoint the best internal candidate rather than risk an outsider or reward a former Unilever executive who jumped ship,” said Wild.
“Alan Jope, who heads [Unilever] Personal Care, looks to be the strongest internal candidate.”
Polman has spent the past eight years as Unilever ceo and has more than 30 years working in the fast-moving consumer goods industry.
He spent 27 years working in various roles at Procter & Gamble, before joining Nestlé in 2006 as chief financial officer.
Selling its spreads business
The search for a new ceo follows a busy year for Unilever, which saw the company start the process of selling its spreads business.
This decision was galvanised by a £115bn takeover bid by rival firm Kraft-Heinz earlier this year, said Wild. However, the bid fell apart just 72 hours later, amid hostility from the Unilever board.
Unilever’s planned restructuring of the business would see the company merge its food business into one organisation based in the Netherlands.
FoodManufacture.co.uk has approached Unilever and Egon Zehnder, but both companies declined to comment.
Meanwhile, earlier this month, McVitie’s brand owner Pladis appointed former KP Snacks ceo Nick Bunker as the new md of its UK & Ireland business, following current md Jon Eggleton stepping down from the role after 14 years.
Paul Polman CV
- 1979 – 2006: Procter & Gamble (various roles)
- 2006 – 2009: Nestlé chief financial officer and head of Americas
- 2009 – Present: Unilever ceo