P&G's Pepper to Reprise Abdication; Lafley Awaits Coronation

11 April 2002

In the manner of medieval monarchs, the court of Cincinnati awaits the second abdication of Procter & Gamble chairman John Pepper on July 1, announced Wednesday.

Pepper (63) first retired as ceo in 1998 but emerged two years later to become chairman of what increasingly seemed a rudderless ship, helmed at the time by ceo Durk Jager.

The latter was ousted by Pepper and current president/ceo Alan G Lafley imported from California, following a palace revolution by the rebellious P&G barony (who disliked Jager’s management style) and the Emperors of Wall Street whose enmity he had incurred with a swathe of missed earnings forecasts and a doomed attempt to expand P&G’s drug business.

Lafley’s ensuing reign is marked by a renaissance at P&G. He has re-engineered its brand portfolio and restructured the management of the group’s individual units. His biggest coup was the acquisition of the Clairol hair-care business, P&G’s largest purchase in its 165-year history. As of yesterday (Wednesday), the firm’s shares stood at a 52-week high on the New York stock exchange, up $2.21 (€2.51; £1.54) to $92.34.

Lafley’s succession to the chair, which will coincide with the ending of the current fiscal on June 30, had been jointly planned by Pepper and himself, he revealed. “We didn't want to do it until we believed P&G's business was really coming back.” Pepper added that P&G leaders are performing “better than I have ever seen a top management team work together.”

Meantime, Cincinnati courtiers and Wall Street's camp followers are agog with speculation as to who will succeed to Lafley’s princedom. But it is “too soon to be thinking about succession,” decreed retiring monarch Pepper, who will remain a director of the company and also continue for a year as chairman of the board's executive committee.

And, in what some onlookers perceive as the most arcane of P&G’s management traditions, Pepper will also join the cabal of former P&G chairmen who occupy their own personal offices on the firm’s legendary eleventh floor. Like England’s King Arthur, they sleep while awaiting the call to battle any foe that endangers the Kingdom.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff