Unilever names former Heinz exec Schumacher as CEO

  • To turn 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 interchange 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 yr 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 in the USA, Europe and Asia.

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

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

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

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

Peltz, by his Trian Fund, holds an almost 1.5% stake in Unilever, making him the fourth largest shareholder, based on Refinitiv Eikon knowledge.

Unilever shares had 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.

“Optimistic that he’s an exterior appointment,” Jack Martin, a fund supervisor at Unilever shareholder Oberon Investments, mentioned. “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 yr misplaced him some good religion amongst traders, together with influential British billionaire Terry Smith, proprietor of Fundsmith.

Smith mentioned 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 bought roots on the firm however on the identical 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 practical and business approach.”

Tineke Frikee, a fund supervisor at Unilever shareholder Waverton Funding Administration, mentioned: “It’s good Schumacher has loads of trade expertise exterior Unilever, notably worldwide.”

“I be aware although that his background is principally in meals, slightly than magnificence and private care. This may occasionally lead the market to scale back the chance 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 yr that Unilever would possibly spin off what they really feel is a weaker meals enterprise to give attention to private items, magnificence and residential care.

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

However Monteyne identified that some traders had been hoping Unilever would title somebody extra well-established, globally.

“Traders we spoke to in current weeks had been eager for a extra acquainted title from a profitable U.S.-based FMCG (fast-moving shopper items) turnaround.”

Unilever had been contemplating inside 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 diet group.

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

Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Belief Ideas.

Richa Naidu

Thomson Reuters

London-based reporter protecting retail and shopper items, analysing developments together with protection of provide chains, promoting methods, company governance, sustainability, politics and regulation. Beforehand wrote about U.S. based mostly retailers, main monetary establishments and coated the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Video games.

Leave a Comment