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(Aug. 31, 2001) -- Procter & Gamble Co. and Unilever were near a settlement of their spying dispute late today.

The agreement would include the reassignment of key executives in P&G's hair care business to other duties within the company, restrictions on P&G's hair care marketing activities through 2003, the appointment of an independent investigator to oversee P&G's hair care marketing activities and a cash payment from P&G to its rival "in the low tens of millions," according to an executive close to the talks.

"We're working cooperatively with Unilever to reach an agreement as soon as possible," a P&G spokeswoman said, though she would not confirm the outline of the agreement.

P&G and Unilever have been in talks since April concerning a "rogue" spying operation by P&G in the hair care business against Unilever that included use of contractors to sort through trash outside Unilever marketing offices, according to an executive familiar with the matter. The spying dispute was first reported by Fortune.com today.

The six-month operation was shut down this spring when top P&G executives learned about it, and Chairman John Pepper informed Unilever of its existence. -- Jack Neff

Copyright September 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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