Unilever chief executive Paul Polman will stand down as chief executive and hand over the reins to Alan Jope, current president of Unilever’s beauty and personal care division, from 1 January.
Polman first served notice of his intention to quit a year ago, hiring executive search firm Egon Zehnder to help find a successor. He will remain on hand throughout the first half of 2019 to lend support.
Jope has spent his career at Unilever after joining in 1985 and holding a number of sales and marketing roles, predominantly in the Personal Care and Beauty divisions, in regions including Thailand, China, Russia, Africa and the Middle East.
He has led the Personal Care business since 2014.
Polman said: "It has been an honour to lead Unilever over the last 10 years. 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.
"I look forward to engaging with many of these partners – in a different capacity – to help address the many environmental and social challenges facing the world.”
Polman most recently championed the Anglo-Dutch giant's failed move to Holland, which sparked a shareholder revolt. Unilever currently operates a dual-listing structure which sees it split head office functions between London and Rotterdam, a complicated affair which Polman was keen to simplify by uniting within a single Dutch HQ. But last month that decision was reversed.
The decision to retain a London base had been welcomed by much of Britain’s advertising industry which faced the prospect of losing one of their largest clients.