Unilever PLC on Wednesday said it named Marijn Dekkers, the chief executive of Bayer AG, as its new chairman, bringing aboard an executive with a reputation for shake-ups to help the consumer-products conglomerate navigate a slowdown in some key markets and push into higher-end personal-care offerings.
Mr. Dekkers announced he was stepping down from the German drug giant earlier in the day. Bayer said he proposed that his “contract be dissolved, effective April 30.”
At Unilever, Mr. Dekkers will succeed longtime Chairman Michael Treschow, who was approaching what the company said was its usual maximum tenure of nine years. Mr. Treschow will retire and leave the board in April.
Mr. Dekkers joins Unilever, the world’s second-largest consumer-products company after Procter & Gamble Co., as Chief Executive Paul Polman works to offset recent weakness in emerging markets and some of the company’s food businesses by pushing more high-end products in Europe and North America.
The maker of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Dove soap also has been pushing into higher-growth personal-care products. Unilever last year made a string of small acquisitions in skin care, for example, and is investing in a “prestige” division that sells high-end cosmetics and personal-care products. That has all helped boost growth amid slower or declining sales in other parts of the business, like margarine, one of Unilever’s oldest product lines.
During his tenure at Bayer, starting in 2010, Mr. Dekkers spun off the company’s material-sciences division, which makes plastics. In 2014, he orchestrated Bayer’s $14.2 billion acquisition of U.S.-based Merck & Co.’s consumer-care division, which sells Claritin allergy medicine and Coppertone sunscreen.
The Dutch-born and U.S.-trained Mr. Dekkers earned a reputation while at Bayer for shaking up what critics called a staid corporate culture at the 150-year-old pharmaceutical, long a household name because of its aspirin.
He spent 25 years in the U.S., working at General Electric Co. and Honeywell International Inc. While he had long been expected to step down from Bayer, he had signaled he would retire and spend more time in the U.S. with his family.
Unilever “is a great business, with great brands and an unequaled global reach,” Mr. Dekkers said in a statement late Wednesday. He called Mr. Polman “an outstanding global leader.”
Bayer said it would name Werner Baumann, a longtime executive there and currently a director in charge of strategy and portfolio management, to the top job. Mr. Baumann joined Bayer in 1988.
By Rory Gallivan
Source: Wall Street Journal
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