Unilever names former Heinz exec Schumacher as CEO

Unilever names former Heinz exec Schumacher as CEO

  • To develop into CEO July 1
  • Activist shareholder says met Schumacher when at Heinz
  • First outsider CEO since Paul Polman appointed in 2008
  • Unilever shares outpace FTSE 100

LONDON, Jan 30 (Reuters) – Unilever on Monday appointed Hein Schumacher to switch Alan Jope as chief government from July in a transfer that was welcomed by traders together with board member and activist shareholder Nelson Peltz.

Schumacher, 51, rejoined Unilever in October final 12 months as non-executive director and is presently the chief of Dutch dairy enterprise FrieslandCampina.

He labored at Unilever greater than 20 years in the past earlier than working for retailer Royal Ahold NV and packaged meals maker H.J. Heinz within the United States, Europe and Asia.

One of the most important shopper corporations on the earth with greater than 400 manufacturers starting from detergent to ice cream, Unilever stated in September stated that Jope deliberate to retire on the finish of 2023.

Billionaire activist investor Nelson Peltz, who heads investor Trian Partners, stated he strongly helps Schumacher “as our new CEO and look(s) ahead to working carefully with him to drive important sustainable stakeholder worth.”

Peltz develop into a Unilever board member in July after it was revealed early final 12 months that he had constructed a stake within the firm.

“I first met Hein once I served as a director on the H.J. Heinz Company from 2006 to 2013 and was impressed by his management expertise and enterprise acumen,” Peltz stated.

Peltz, via his Trian Fund, holds an almost 1.5% stake in Unilever, making him the fourth largest shareholder, in response to Refinitiv Eikon knowledge.

Unilever shares have been up 0.56% versus a FTSE 100 (.FTSE) index down 0.1% as of 1032 GMT.

The transfer was additionally cheered by different traders and analysts, who’ve felt in recent times that Unilever wanted an outsider’s contact.

“Positive that he’s an exterior appointment,” Jack Martin, a fund supervisor at Unilever shareholder Oberon Investments, stated. “Good CV from what I learn, hopefully gives the impetus the corporate requires.”


Unilever’s shares have underperformed European shopper staples and discretionary indices throughout CEO Jope’s tenure, which started in January 2019.

Reuters Graphics

His failed bids for GlaxoSmithKline’s (GSK.L) shopper healthcare enterprise final 12 months misplaced him some good religion amongst traders, together with influential British billionaire Terry Smith, proprietor of Fundsmith.

Smith stated on the time that Jope wanted to focus much less on sustainbility and extra on constructing Unilever’s core enterprise.

“Hein is right for Unilever — he is acquired roots on the firm however on the similar time he is exterior,” Allan Leighton, former CEO of British meals retailer Asda and ex-chair of Britain’s Royal Mail, instructed Reuters.

Leighton, who labored with Schumacher on the board of C&A AG, described him as “ESG savvy however in a realistic and industrial means.”

Tineke Frikee, a fund supervisor at Unilever shareholder Waverton Investment Management, stated: “It is nice Schumacher has loads of trade expertise outdoors Unilever, notably worldwide.”

“I observe although that his background is especially in meals, quite than magnificence and private care. This could lead the market to scale back the likelihood of a possible meals spin-off.”

Unilever’s meals enterprise consists of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Colman’s mustard, Hellman’s mayonnaise and Knorr inventory cubes.

Some traders and analysts have speculated over the previous 12 months that Unilever may spin off what they really feel is a weaker meals enterprise to concentrate on private items, magnificence and residential care.

“Why rent a meals exec, if you’re planning to promote the meals enterprise?” Bernstein analyst Bruno Monteyne stated, including that promoting the meals enterprise “will at all times be on the playing cards, however I doubt that it’s prime precedence within the quick time period.”

But Monteyne identified that some traders have been hoping Unilever would identify somebody extra well-established, globally.

“Investors we spoke to in current weeks have been looking forward to a extra acquainted identify from a profitable U.S.-based FMCG (fast-moving shopper items) turnaround.”

Unilever had been contemplating inner and exterior candidates for the function.

Sources instructed Reuters in October that the candidates included finance chief Graeme Pitkethly, private care division boss Fabian Garcia and Hanneke Faber, who heads the corporate’s vitamin group.

Reporting by Yadarisa Shabong and Richa Naidu; enhancing by Matt Scuffham and Jason Neely

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