Unilever streamlines its boardroom as sales stall

THE ANGLO-DUTCH consumer products giant, Unilever, yesterday abolished the co-chairmanship structure it has cherished for 75 years as it shook up its executive team in an attempt to restore growth.

Patrick Cescau, who replaced Niall FitzGerald as co-chairman of the group's English arm in October, will become chief executive, and Antony Bergmans, his Dutch counterpart, will be non-executive chairman. The company pledged to appoint an independent chairman by 2007.

The changes came as Mr Cescau issued a damning verdict of the company's much-vaunted restructuring programme, admitting it had missed its key milestone: growth. "We created a straitjacket for ourselves [and] ended up too focused on our internal targets and not on the consumer and customer," he said.

Underlying sales edged just 0.4 per cent higher in 2004, as its five- year so-called Path to Growth programme, designed to produce annual sales growth of 5 to 6 per cent, petered out.

The group, which owns brands from Lipton tea to Hellmann's mayonnaise, refused to give earnings or sales guidance for 2005 as it abandoned most of the targets it set 12 months ago. Ultimately it hopes to match market growth of 2 to 4 per cent, down from the 3 to 5 per cent it predicted it could manage last year. Its shares closed down 2p at 514p.

Julian Hardwick, at ABN Amro, said: "The market is focusing on the fact that there is no visibility in Unilever's trading prospects in the near time and that it will take time for these [management] changes to work their way through."

In the biggest shake-up to the company's executive structure since it was formed, it is slashing its executive board positions from seven to four. Three directors - Andre van Heemstra, the personnel director, Keki Dadiseth, the global head of home and personal care, and Clive Butler, the corporate development director - will leave. The new eight-member executive board will replace the 28-strong powerbase deplored by analysts and investors.

Mr Bergmans' first task as non-executive chairman will be to review the group's corporate structure in a move that could see it abandon its Rotterdam base and abolish its dual listing.

Despite falling sales in frozen foods and home care business Mr Cescau ruled out any disposals and said acquisitions were not on his agenda.

Outlook, page 47

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Report Writer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Technical Report Writer is re...

MBDA UK Ltd: Indirect Procurement Category Manager

Competitive salary & benefits!: MBDA UK Ltd: MBDA UK LTD Indirect Procurement...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

£16500 - £16640 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing Finance compa...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore