Unilever Chief to Quit sooner after failed GSK Bid

27.09.2022 - British-multinational consumer products giant Unilever has announced that its chief executive, Alan Jope, will retire at the end of 2023. The potentially earlier than planned departure announcement had been anticipated.

At the beginning of 2022, the Scottish-born executive, who has employed by Unilever for more than 35 years and served for five years as CEO, came under fire from activist investors after a failed bid to acquire the former GSK majority-owned consumer drugs joint venture with Pfizer.  

In mid-January, GSK said it had received and rejected three bids from Unilever to acquire the business, which was eventually spun off this summer as Haleon. The third offer, worth £50 billion (£41.7 billion in cash and £8.3 billion in Unilever shares) revealed in January, “fundamentally undervalued the business,” the UK pharma said at the time.

Unilever insisted nevertheless that the drugmaker’s consumer activities would be a “strong strategic fit” with its own franchise as it continued to reshape its portfolio.

In response to the failed bid, Jope slashed some 1,500 management positions at Unilever worldwide in a major restructuring attempt seen as aimed at pleasing disgruntled unhappy investors.

Whether as an indication that the corporate makeover was successful or not, Unilever chairman Nils Andersen said in announcing Jope’s retirement plans that business has improved. Under Jope’s aegis, Unilever became a wholly British player at the end of 2020 after merging its separately held Dutch and British corporate entities.

Commenting on his departure plans, Jope said he believes that “now is the right time for the board to begin the formal search for my successor. Growth remains our top priority, and in the quarters ahead I will remain fully focused on disciplined execution of our strategy, and leveraging the full benefits of our new organization."

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist