07 August 2000

As previously reported [WAMN, 3-Aug-00], Unilever is to demerge its business into two global units – personal care/home products and foods – each with its own management structure.

As of 1 January 2001, chief executive Alexander Kemner will retire from the Anglo-Dutch fmcg giant, his role passing to current finance director Patrick Cescau who will head the global foods division. Worldwide responsibility for home and personal care will be in the hands of Keki Dadiseth, the former managing director of Hindustant Lever, who undertook the group's recent six-month management review.

Both men will report to Unilever chairman Niall FitzGerald, who on Friday reported lacklustre second quarter results with a 14% profits plunge to £611 million pre-tax after a restructuring charge of £176m.

The group will axe – or allow to wither – most of the 1,200 brands currently in its portfolio, enabling it to concentrate on a hard core of four hundred key brands. According to FitzGerald “We are focusing on our leading brands, addressing the underperforming business as demonstrated through the forthcoming sales of our European bakery business, and our restructuring programme is on target.”

The news fanned speculation on Wall Street and in the City of London that Unilever will eventually demerge into two separate companies.

News source: The Times (London) [5-Aug-00] and BBC Online Business News (UK)