Pol­man heads for exit at Unilever

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Business Comment -

Paul Pol­man is re­tir­ing from Unilever. What’s that? You didn’t re­alise that he still worked there? Fair enough. His par­tic­u­lar style of ab­sen­tee man­age­ment has been a source of some frus­tra­tion among share­hold­ers for a while now. There was a grow­ing sense that he was hap­pier hang­ing out with Bono at Davos than he was in ac­tu­ally run­ning the soap-to-ice-cream maker.

That sense be­came more acute dur­ing Unilever’s ill-fated at­tempt to move its head­quar­ters to Rot­ter­dam ear­lier this year, which was pub­licly fronted by chair­man Mar­ijn Dekkers and fi­nance chief Graeme Pitkethly. In­deed, Pol­man didn’t even bother to take part in the press call yes­ter­day to dis­cuss his de­par­ture.

There will in­evitably be spec­u­la­tion about whether Unilever’s con­tro­ver­sial de­ci­sion to go Dutch, which it aborted in the face of grow­ing share­holder op­po­si­tion, ex­pe­dited Pol­man’s de­par­ture. Ei­ther way, the slightly sour end to his ten­ure should be bal­anced with the fact that he quadru­pled share­holder re­turns over his 10-year spell and man­aged to fight off a hos­tile takeover from Kraft Heinz in 2017.

More im­por­tantly he did more than al­most any other modern ex­ec­u­tive to raise aware­ness that com­pa­nies have more stake­hold­ers than just share­hold­ers. There will be plenty who will ar­gue that he went too far and that his hug-anorang-utan style con­trib­uted to the lack of strate­gic fo­cus that gave Kraft the op­por­tu­nity to come knock­ing in the first place. There will be plenty of oth­ers who will ar­gue that the cor­po­rate world needed some­one like Pol­man over com­pen­sat­ing for all the other ex­ec­u­tives who think about lit­tle else but the bot­tom line.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.