Heidrick & Struggles Selected by Newell Brands to Find New CEO

March 18, 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.

Last week, Newell Brands Inc. announced that it has retained Heidrick & Struggles to lead its search for a new chief executive officer. Michael Polk, the company’s president and CEO since 2011, will retire at the end of the second quarter.

The board and Mr. Polk have agreed that, as the company nears the completion of its “accelerated transformation plan,” now is the right time for a management transition. “While we recognize that there is still work to do to become a leading consumer goods company, we are confident that the company is taking the right steps to execute its transformation, drive growth and increase shareholder value,” said Patrick Campbell, non-executive independent chairman of the board. “We appreciate Mike’s continued support to facilitate an orderly transition in the coming months as the board conducts a comprehensive search for the company’s next chief executive officer.”

Mr. Polk said he feels privileged to have led Newell Brands for the past eight years. “With the accelerated transformation plan largely complete and the business beginning to turn, I believe now is the right time to transition to the next generation of leadership”, he said. “I am proud of the progress we have made since 2011 transforming the portfolio and building a set of competitively advantaged capabilities in innovation, design and eCommerce. I am committed to working alongside the board and the management team to ensure a smooth transition over the next few months.”

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, and has recently 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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In February, 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.”

Headquartered in Hoboken, NJ, 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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