Unilever's FitzGerald to succeed Hogg as chairman of Reuters

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Reuters, the information and technology group, yesterday confirmed that Niall FitzGerald, the chairman and chief executive of Unilever, will become its new chairman from October.

Mr FitzGerald's appointment had been widely expected ever since he became a non-executive director of Reuters in January 2003. Last month he announced he would stand down from his combined role at Unilever at the end of September, heightening expectations that he would take on the Reuters job. He will replace Sir Christopher Hogg, who has been chairman of Reuters for more than 18 years.

Mr Fitzgerald will be walking into a company that has just begun what it sees as a recovery period after several years of decline caused by the dramatic scaling back of spending on its services by financial institutions. Reuters also saw its share price slide after the telecoms and technology bubble burst in 2000. Tom Glocer, Reuters' chief executive, embarked on a major restructuring at the group, including large-scale job cuts in an attempt to rebuild profits. The group recently announced it had seen early signs of improvement as the rate of decline in sales had started to slow.

Mr FitzGerald is one of the UK's most prominent business leaders, enjoying close links with the prime minister as well as regularly espousing the benefits of the euro. The problems faced by Reuters are similar to those Mr FitzGerald had to address while the boss of Unilever, where he has been credited with turning the sleepy consumer goods group into a far more entrepreneurial and dynamic organisation.

In 1999, three years after taking the helm at Unilever, he embarked on a five-year turnaround strategy called Path to Growth. Although he has faced criticism for failing to meet sales targets under the scheme, he succeeded in meeting his other targets such as improvements in earnings.