Egon Zehnder Assists Unilever in CEO Search

November 30, 2018 – Consumer goods giant Unilever has appointed Alan Jope as its new CEO following a search led by Egon Zehnder. He steps into his new role in January, succeeding Paul Polman, who led the company for 10 years.

“After a rigorous and wide-ranging selection process, the board is delighted to appoint Alan to the role,” said Marijn Dekkers, chairman. “Having worked for Unilever in a variety of senior management roles, Alan has a deep understanding and experience of our business, the industry and the markets in which we operate. He is a strong, dynamic and values-driven leader with an impressive track record of delivering consistent high-quality performance.”

Mr. Jope has led beauty & personal care, Unilever’s largest division, since 2014 and has been on the company’s leadership executive committee since 2011. He has an extensive track record of leading Unilever’s business in both developed and emerging markets: He ran the company’s North Asia business for four years; served as president, Russia, Africa & Middle East; and spent over a decade in senior foods, home care and personal care roles for Unilever U.S. Mr. Jope also founded a tech hub in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood last year that focuses on online communications for brands such as Dove and Axe shower gel.

“I congratulate Alan on his appointment and look forward to working with him on the transition,” said Mr. Polman. “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.”


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“It will be a huge privilege to lead Unilever – a truly global company full of talented people, and brilliant brands,” said Mr. Jope. “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. I’d also like to extend my gratitude to Paul for his remarkable leadership of Unilever and look forward to working closely with him during the transition.”

Unilever is one of the world’s biggest consumer goods manufacturers, owning over 400 brands including Dove soap, Lipton tea, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Klondike ice cream. The company’s products are sold in 190 countries. Last year, Unilever became a short-lived takeover target for Kraft Heinz.

Selecting the Right CEO

For boards, the task of selecting a new CEO is fraught with more risk and uncertainty than ever. It is no longer a matter of simply choosing a successor based on past performance or current readiness, said Egon Zehnder. The decision is a complex study in forecasting the future, assessing possibilities and mitigating risk.

Egon Zehnder’s global CEO practice works closely with boards to identify, develop and appoint CEOs equipped to meet the challenges and define the opportunities organizations face, both today and down the road. Over the last five years, the firm has led more than 1,000 CEO placements, making it one of the preeminent leaders in C-suite recruitment. The firm’s CEO practice is comprised of 100 senior consultants from across the globe, with cross-sector expertise that includes business and industry, government and the non-profit sectors.

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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In other words, Unilever paid Egon Zehnder $250k+ for a few fruitless interviews and ended up, just as Polman said they would all along, picking an internal successor. Yawn. No idea why EZ thinks this kind of press reflects favorably on them beyond the echo chamber of the executive search universe.