Unilever veteran Alan Jope has been named chairman, greater China based in Shanghai. He succeeds Frank Braeken, who has held the role since August 2005.
Previously, Mr. Jope, 44, was global category leader for Unilever's spreads, cooking products and dressings business, based in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
Before that, he was president for Unilever's home and personal care business in North America, overseeing brands such as Dove, Suave, All, Snuggle, Degree, Axe and Vaseline, then became chief operating officer and later president of that division. He oversaw the successful launch of Axe in the U.S., and is a widely-admired and extremely popular executive within Unilever.
Mr. Jope, a Scotsman, joined Unilever in 1985 and held various sales and marketing jobs in the U.K. and the U.S. for the next ten years.
From 1995 until 1998, he served as division director for Unilever's operation in Thailand, leading personal products for the Thai market and helping build Unilever's hair care business in Asia/Pacific.
After his first Asian post, Mr. Jope returned to the U.S., to work in the Chicago-based North American home and personal care division.
Departing Chairman Mr. Braeken started his career at Procter & Gamble in 1985, but is a career Unilever executive. He joined the company in 1987, and held senior positions in central and eastern Europe and Latin America, providing valuable experience in emerging markets. Mr. Braeken will remain in Shanghai until April. His next role in the company has not been disclosed.
When Mr. Braeken, a native of Belgium, arrived in Shanghai Unilever was exiting a troubled era in China. A series of misfires related to Unilever's former management, product development, distribution and marketing had left it far behind key rivals like P&G.
The Anglo-Dutch company was also extricating itself from a series of messy joint venture partnerships that didn't work well with each other, or with Unilever, tying the company in operational knots.
Over the past three-and-a-half years, Unilever has reversed its backwards slide in China through improvements in several key areas.
Under Mr. Braeken, Unilever has hired experienced local executives, such as Joanna Wang, Shanghai-based VP for the beauty care business in China, to run key divisions.
The company has developed products across different price points and expanded its distribution into third tier markets.
Unilever has also designed products for Asian markets like China, including Knorr Stock Pots, bouillon made with gel technology to create more authentic stocks, and Clear, an anti-dandruff hair care brand developed for Asia, where dandruff is a major concern for dark-haired consumers.
Later this year, Unilever will open one of its largest R&D centers globally in China. A massive structure still under construction, the R&D center is located across the street from Unilever's Greater China headquarters in Shanghai.
Contributing: Ad Age reporter Jack Neff in Cincinnati
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