Heidrick & Struggles Recruits CEO for Newell Brands

August 19, 2019 – Competition among consumer companies has never been fiercer. Customers are shopping in new and sometimes non-traditional ways as mass market retailers offer designer goods, brick and mortar staples are available on-line and venerable brands spin off agile brand extensions. Consumer companies are also keen to capitalize on the potential of emerging and high growth markets. All this makes it more important than ever for businesses to have the right leaders in place.

One recent placement: Heidrick & Struggles has recruited former OfficeMax leader Ravi Saligram as CEO of Newell Brands in Hoboken, NJ. Michael Polk, the company’s president and CEO since 2011, retired at the end of the second quarter. Mr. Saligram joins the company on Oct. 2.

“After a rigorous and wide-ranging selection process, the board is delighted to welcome Ravi as the company’s next CEO,” said Patrick Campbell, chairman of the board of Newell Brands. “Ravi is an exceptional business leader and a proven chief executive officer with a track record of building diverse leadership teams while delivering high quality performance in complex multi-unit organizations.”

“He has an impressive history of driving shareholder value during his prior CEO roles, and he has successfully executed multiple digital transformations during his career,” Mr. Campbell said. “He is noted for his leadership in consumer-facing and digital businesses and has lived and worked in multiple international environments. The board welcomes Ravi to the role and looks forward to partnering with him and the broader leadership team to build Newell Brands into a leading next-generation consumer products company.”

Mr. Saligram brings an extensive background in consumer brands, omni-channel commerce and global operations, and a proven record of building a pipeline of best-in-class talent, with a focus on diversity and inclusion. He is currently CEO and a director of Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers Inc. Over the past five years, he drove a significant strategic, operational and cultural transformation of that company to a multi-channel, digitally savvy, technology-enabled world leader in its field.

Prior to that, Mr. Saligram was CEO of OfficeMax Inc., where he drove innovation and evolved the company from an office products distributor to an omni-channel provider of workplace products, exiting the company after his successful championship of the merger with Office Depot. From 2003 through 2010, he served in executive management positions with ARAMARK Corp., a global food services company, including president of ARAMARK International and chief globalization officer and executive vice president. From 1994 through 2002, he served in various capacities for the InterContinental Hotels Group, a global hospitality company. Mr. Saligram has served on the board of directors of Church & Dwight Co. Inc. since 2006.

“I am delighted to return to my roots in consumer packaged goods and lead the Newell team to reestablish the organization as a premier, cutting edge consumer products company that is at the forefront of meeting evolving needs and lifestyles,” said Mr. Saligram. “I am confident that Newell, with its iconic brands and a compelling product portfolio, is ripe for building a strong growth platform that drives shareholder value through the creative intersection of design, innovation, e-commerce and efficiencies. I’m excited to partner with the leadership team as we galvanize employees to drive world-class execution, become digital-first and build a forward-looking, winning culture.”

Recent Struggles

The change in leadership comes after the company has struggled with weak sales and missed targets since a merger put Sharpie pens, Mr. Coffee machines and Yankee Candle under the same roof. The Rubbermaid parent company has also struggled for the type of growth it expected after the $15 billion acquisition of Jarden three years ago. Recently, it has been selling off businesses while attracting attention from investors such as Carl Icahn and Starboard Value. The company’s stock is down 45.7 percent in the past 12 months.

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Just recently, Newell Brands forecast lower-than-expected sales and profit due for its financial year 2019, citing a stronger dollar, higher costs and sluggish sales of its Graco baby products in the aftermath of the liquidation of Toys ‘R’ Us.

Newell said it expects the expansion of its accelerated transformation plan to “accelerate value creation and more rapidly transform the portfolio to one best positioned to leverage the company’s advantaged capabilities in innovation, design and e-commerce.”

Newell Brands is a global consumer goods company with a strong portfolio of well-known brands, including Paper Mate, Sharpie, Dymo, EXPO, Parker, Elmer’s, Coleman, Marmot, Oster, Sunbeam, FoodSaver, Mr. Coffee, Graco, Baby Jogger, NUK, Calphalon, Rubbermaid, Contigo, First Alert and Yankee Candle.

Consumer Markets Practice

As consumers demand more transparency, brand engagement and sustainability, Heidrick’s consumer markets practice provides counsel to clients in a wide variety of consumer sectors; the firm represents some of the world’s most recognizable brands. Since 2008, Heidrick & Struggles’ retail and apparel team have conducted more than 1,300 senior-level and board director assignments for the retail, fashion and luxury goods industries.

Stephen Schwanhausser is the global managing partner and regional managing partner Americas of the consumer markets practice at Heidrick & Struggles. Based in New York, he has been with the firm for more than a decade.

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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