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Unilever's Polman, Cescau Rescued in Terrorist Attack

Top Execs Were Attending Current CEO's Farewell Dinner at Mumbai Hotel

By Published on .

BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Incoming Unilever CEO Paul Polman and current CEO Patrick Cescau were in the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai when it was attacked by terrorists last week, trapped there for hours until rescued in the wee hours of Friday morning by police and firefighters.
A group from Unilever was in a banquet room at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai when the attack began.
A group from Unilever was in a banquet room at the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai when the attack began. Credit: AP/David Guttenfelder

Messrs. Cescau and Polman, along with other Unilever executives including Harish Manwani, president-Asia, Africa, Central and Eastern Europe, and at least four other current or former top executives, were there for a dinner to bid farewell to Mr. Cescau and welcome Mr. Polman. The attack on the hotel began just as dinner was scheduled to start.

The Economic Times of India reported that senior personnel from Unilever and some former colleagues were in constant contact with the team by mobile devices and tried to help arrange their rescue.

The Times reported that the entire group was told to lie flat on the floor of the banquet room during the first hour of the attack and that a window had to be broken to let in air after the room filled with smoke.

'Narrow escape'
Mr. Cescau and Mr. Polman left Mumbai shortly after their rescue, Unilever spokesman Trevor Gorin said. "It was a pretty narrow escape is how I would characterize it," he said.

India long has been Unilever's biggest developing market, and the company has long been the biggest multinational player there in package goods, with annual sales of more than $4 billion.
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