Unilever CEO Paul Polman Is Retiring After 10 Years With the Brand

Current president of beauty and personal care will take over in 2019

Unilever's CEO of 10 years will retire at the end of the year. Getty Images
Headshot of Katie Richards

Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, will retire at the end of the year after over 10 years with the company. The brand’s current president of beauty and personal care, Alan Jope, will take over Polman’s position beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

“It has been an honor to lead Unilever over the last 10 years,” Polman said in a statement. “Throughout this time, I have been humbled by the commitment and hard work of our people, and their passion for creating a truly purpose-driven company. I am very grateful to them, as I am to Unilever’s many other stakeholders, with whom we have worked to build our long-term, sustainable business.”

During his time at Unilever (the parent company to brands including Dove, Axe and Lipton) Polman is credited with bringing total shareholder return to 290 percent in his 10 years as CEO. He also made it a mission to turn the company into a purpose-driven organization with the creation of the Sustainable Living Plan—a plan to reduce the company’s global footprint by focusing on water use, sustainable sourcing, smart packaging and waste and much more.

Under Polman, Unilever also made some major deals including buying Dollar Shave Club in a $1 billion deal.

Polman has spent nearly four decades in the consumer goods space. Prior to taking on the role at Unilever, he served as CFO of Nestle for three years. Before that, he spent roughly 27 years in various roles at Procter & Gamble.

“Paul is an exceptional business leader who has transformed Unilever, making it one of the best-performing companies in its sector, and one of the most admired businesses in the world. His role in helping to define a new era of responsible capitalism, embodied in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, marks him out as one of the most far-sighted business leaders of his generation,” Marijn Dekkers, Unilever chairman, said in a statement.

Incoming CEO Jope has served as the president of beauty and personal care since 2014. He joined the company in 1985 as a marketing trainee and has since worked in foods, home care and personal care for the company. Jope also spent four years running the company’s North Asia business and served as president, Russia, Africa and Middle East.

“Our global footprint includes strong positions in many important markets for the future and our focus will remain on serving our consumers, and our other multiple stakeholders, to deliver long-term growth and value creation,” Jope said in a statement. “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.”

Jope will officially take over on Jan. 1, 2019. Polman will continue to help Jope transition into the role through early July 2019.


@ktjrichards katie.richards@adweek.com Katie Richards is a staff writer for Adweek.
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