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Unilever names Nestle's Polman as chief executive

LONDON - Unilever has named Paul Polman from Nestle and a Procter & Gamble veteran to succeed Patrick Cescau as chief executive.

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Polman joined Nestle in 2006 as chief financial officer. Prior to that he had a 26 year career at Procter & Gamble where he rose to become group president, Europe -- a position he held from 2001 to 2005.

Polman is currently executive vice president and zone director for the Americas at Nestle and he will take over when Cescau retires at the end of the year after 35 years with the consumer products giant.

He had been tipped as a posible successor to former Nestle chief Peter Brabeck-Letmathe. However, he lost out in that race as the Swiss food giant named former Americas head Paul Bulcke instead in September 2007.

That disappointment left Polman open to a move. Unilever, best known for its Flora, Persil, Dove and Lynx brands, began its search for a new global chief executive to replace Cescau earlier this year after appointing headhunters.

It had been speculated that Unilever was most likely to replace Cescau with an internal candidate. Those in the running were thought to have included: chief financial officer Jim Lawrence; Americas division president Mike Polk; foods, home and personal care president Vindi Banga; and Asia president Harish Manwani.

Most recently Cescau conducted a strategic overhaul of the group's brands under the banner "One Unilever".

This resulted in the sell-off of a number of brands including the £500m sale of Bertolli, its olive oil brand, to Spanish food producer Grupo SOS.

Michael Treschow, chairman of Unilever, said: "Patrick has had an outstanding career. We are greatly in his debt for the transformation he has brought about over the last four years.

"The performance of the business has improved markedly under his leadership. Liked and admired in equal measure, Patrick leaves a substantial record on which to build.

"At the same time, we are very pleased to welcome Paul Polman. He is a great talent with significant international experience and an excellent track record. He has all the attributes necessary to build on Patrick’s achievements.

"We are delighted that he has agreed to join the business and to lead Unilever into the next stage of its development."

Cescau said: "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 on the baton.

"It has been an extraordinary privilege to lead such a great business. I leave with a real sense of pride in what has been achieved, but also great confidence in the company’s ability to pursue the opportunities that lie ahead."

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