Unilever CEO Alan Jope to retire at end of 2023

The British consumer goods maker said its board would start a formal search for his successor, considering both internal and external candidates.

 Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam, Netherlands August 21, 2018.  (photo credit: REUTERS/PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW)
Unilever headquarters in Rotterdam, Netherlands August 21, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/PIROSCHKA VAN DE WOUW)

Unilever CEO Alan Jope plans to retire at the end of 2023, the maker of Dove soap and Knorr stock cubes said on Monday, roughly two months after activist investor Nelson Peltz joined the board.

The British consumer goods maker said its board would start a formal search for his successor, considering both internal and external candidates.

A source familiar with the matter said Unilever's "unusual" decision to tell the market more than a year before Jope leaves stems from concerns that the news would have leaked before being officially announced.

Unilever's search begins at a time of soaring food and energy prices which are hitting household budgets and hurting consumer confidence. The company also faces competition for a new CEO from Reckitt RKT.K, the maker of Dettol products and Finish dish soap.

Unilever has had a rocky start to the year under Jope, who in January mounted three bids for the consumer health arm of GlaxoSmithKline - one for 50 billion pounds ($53.14 billion).

 THE UNILEVER LOGO is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (credit: BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS) THE UNILEVER LOGO is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (credit: BRENDAN MCDERMID/REUTERS)

The move was met with disapproval from shareholders, some of whom also criticized Unilever for prioritizing sustainability over core growth.

The company in January also announced it would cut about 1,500 management jobs and reshape its business to focus on five main product areas, days after it was revealed that Peltz, via his Trian Partners vehicle, had built a stake in Unilever.

Trian did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jope's remarks

"Growth remains our top priority, and in the quarters ahead I will remain fully focused on disciplined execution of our strategy," said Jope, who has been in his role for five years.

"Growth remains our top priority, and in the quarters ahead I will remain fully focused on disciplined execution of our strategy."

Alan Jope