The choice is widely believed to be between President John Pepper, 55, and Exec VP Durk Jager, 51.
Who will succeed Chairman-CEO Edwin Artzt is becoming the hottest buzz throughout the $30 billion company. Mr. Artzt says he has "no plans to retire"-but next April he turns 65, P&G's customary retirement age (AA, June 27).
The guessing game is intriguing partly because the two leading candidates have opposite management styles. Mr. Pepper represents the traditional P&G, while Mr. Jager embodies the new, tough P&G.
"John is much more interested in the people side of issues, and Jager is interested in one thing only and that's the business results side," said a former P&G executive who worked with both men.
"It isn't going to be the same company depending on who gets it," he said. "Jager, if anything, is more determined than Ed was to correct the things he views as wrong or stupid. He's not patient. Under Pepper, it will be more a sense of `We're in this together and it's a team.'*"
It's unclear which way the board will go. Some people close to the company believe Mr. Pepper will win the chairman-CEO title and Mr. Jager will be president-chief operating officer. Still others claim the board will name Mr. Pepper chairman and Mr. Jager CEO.
Since 1990, Mr. Pepper has had overall responsibility for P&G's international business with impressive double-digit volume gains. Although overseas growth is a key component to the corporate strategy, Mr. Pepper has taken a less public leadership role than Mr. Jager.
Mr. Jager is the chief architect of the company's everyday low pricing policy that shook up retailers in late 1991. At the time, some retailers were miffed that P&G didn't present the new policy more diplomatically-a miscalculation some blamed on Mr. Jager.
Mr. Jager and other executives managed to smooth things over, and EDLP, while not pleasing all retailers, is contributing to improved domestic results.
"From a pure business point, the guy to call the shots is Jager," said another former P&G top executive.
But within P&G, Mr. Pepper wins the popularity contest.
"He resonates wonderfully within the culture and is the epitome of the old culture of good people trying to do good things," said still another former employee.
Mr. Pepper joined P&G in 1963, becoming ad manager in the Bar Soap & Household Cleaning Products Division nine years later. He became general manager of Procter & Gamble Italia in 1974 and division manager-international three years later. In 1981, he had responsibility for European operations as group VP. He was made exec VP in 1984 for U.S. consumer products, and became president in 1986.
Mr. Jager gained wide recognition in 1990 when he assumed responsibility for all U.S. business except the food and beverage sector. In 1991, he was given responsibility for the entire U.S. business.
Mr. Jager came up through P&G's brand ranks in his native country, the Netherlands, starting in 1970. He had advanced to ad manager in Japan by 1982, general manager-Japan in '85, VP-Japan in '87 and group VP-Far East and Asia Pacific divisions by '88.