UNILEVER PROMOTES MIKE POLK TO HEAD U.S. OPERATIONS

Was President of Foods Division

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CINCINNATI (AdAge.com) -- Unilever's ongoing management shakeup took a new turn today as it consolidated oversight of its U.S. business by naming Mike Polk, who came to the company only two years ago from Kraft Foods, to head U.S. operations.
Mike Polk, new U.S. group vice president at Unilever.
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Mr. Polk, 44, who earlier this year was named group VP-North America, and president U.S. Foods, becomes group VP-U.S., continuing to report directly to John Rice, president-Americas and still based in the marketer's U.S. headquarters in Engelwood Cliffs, N.J.

In an initial round of management changes this spring under the "One Unilever" restructuring plan, Mr. Polk moved up from chief marketing officer of the U.S. foods business to head the unit.

Alan Jope
Alan Jope, 41, appointed at the same time to head Unilever's U.S. Home and Personal Care business, will now move to the global foods brand development organization. He'll become group VP, global spreads, cooking products and dressings, based in Engelwood Cliffs, reporting directly to London-based President-Global Foods Vindi Banga.

Both moves take effect Jan. 1, but transition begins immediately, Unilever said in a statement.

Structure criticized
The move appears to address criticism that Unilever, despite its size, has never taken full advantage of its scale by consolidating U.S. operations. For years, it has operated largely independent food and home and personal care units in the U.S., even approaching giant retailers like Wal-Mart Stores largely as two separate companies.

The country organization Mr. Polk now will head includes sales, media planning and buying and much of the brand consumer-marketing efforts besides advertising, which continues at the realm of the global brand development organization.

Among other things, the move also simplifies reporting lines for Unilever's new central marketing executives, who also span the U.S. food and home and personal care businesses. When they were appointed in August, Laura Klauberg, new senior marketing officer and VP of marketing shared services, and Lisa Klauser, VP for brand building through customers, reported jointly to Messrs. Polk and Jope. Now, they'll report only to Mr. Polk.

Company cultural shift
The move also represents a significant cultural change for Unilever, whose top managers until recently have been mainly long-term Unilever employees or came in via acquired companies. Mr. Polk, who started his career at rival Procter & Gamble Co. before spending most of his working life at Kraft, was recruited away from Kraft only two years ago.

Mr. Jope is a 20-year Unilever manager. The affable Scot was widely liked by subordinates in the U.S. home and personal care business, where he became VP-marketing for hair and deodorant in 1999 before becoming chief operating officer of the unit in 2000 and later group VP, Unilever, and president of U.S. Home and Personal Care. He's credited with leading the charge for stronger advertising creative at the unit.

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