LONDON: Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch fmcg giant, has tapped Nestlé evp/head of zone for the Americas Paul Polman (pictured) as its new chief executive. He will replace incumbent Patrick Cescau who is due to retire at the end of 2008 after thirty-five years with the company.

Polman (52), a Dutch national, is no stranger to the fmcg coalface, having toiled in the bunkers of Procter & Gamble for twenty-six years before joining Nestlé, whose Americas unit he has led for the past two years.

Cescau will be a hard act to follow, not least because of his success in turning round the Dove soap to Hellmans mayonnaise conglomerate after a profits warning bombshell in 2004.

Says he: "Four years ago, we set out to transform Unilever and to get the business back on track. I believe that phase of work is largely complete, so now is exactly the right time to pass the baton."

While Unilever chairman Michael Treschow hailed the choice for which he is, in part, responsible. Polman, he believes, is a "great talent [with] all the attributes necessary to build on Patrick's achievements".

Nestlé, meantime, has swiftly despatched Polman to the departure lounge – inevitable in view of his destination – and replaced him at the helm of its Americas business with Luis Cantarell, hitherto head of the Europe zone.

Unilever significantly bettered market expectations in July, when it lifted H1 pre-tax profits by 14% year-on-year to €3.13 billion ($4.54bn; £2.55bn), having passed on materials price rises to consumers.

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