Unilever Combines Divisions, Shores Up Overseas Leadership

Senior Management Ranks Turn Over in Wide-Ranging Shake-up

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Unilever today announced its biggest senior-management shakeup since Patrick Cescau became CEO in 2005, combining its Home and Personal Care unit with its Foods division under a single executive and leaving the Anglo-Dutch company with no English or Dutch executives in its uppermost ranks.

The overhaul of the world's No. 2 advertising spender expands the roles of two key Indian executives -- and the odds one will eventually succeed Mr. Cescau, 59, a Frenchman, as CEO.

Shoring up divisions, regions
Vindi Banga, 53, now president-Foods, will also oversee Home and Personal Care following Unilever's annual shareholder meeting in May. Harish Manwani, 54, currently president-Asia/Africa, will add Central and Eastern Europe to his duties, putting most developing and emerging markets under his leadership.

Mr. Manwani, who was president of North American Home and Personal Care for about a year prior to assuming his current post in 2005, like Mr. Banga began his career with Unilever's $3 billion Hindustan Lever business in India.

Doug Baillie, 52, born in Zimbabwe, will move from CEO of Hindustan Lever to become president of Western Europe, which will now operate as a separate unit from the rest of Europe.

Two longtime executives are retiring: Kees van der Graaf, 57, a Dutch executive who's now president-Europe, and Ralph Kugler, 51, a Brit who's now president-Home and Personal Care.

"We thank Kees and Ralph for all they have done for ... and we wish them well," Michael Treschow, the Swedish non-executive chairman of Unilever, said in a statement.

Other top managers
The moves complete a near-total overhaul of senior leadership at Unilever the past three years, including Mr. Treschow's appointment last year. The balance of top managers includes James Lawrence, 54, an American and veteran of General Mills, appointed chief financial officer in September; and Michael Polk, 46, an American and veteran of Kraft Foods and Procter & Gamble Co., who became president-Americas in 2006.

Just over three years ago, Unilever was led by British and Dutch co-chairmen and a mostly Anglo-Dutch leadership group.

The brand-development organization Mr. Banga will now lead has responsibility for advertising and product development. Global managers for individual categories, such as hair care, and major brands, such as Dove, will report up to him.

The regional operating units, such as those led by Mr. Polk in the Americas or Mr. Manwani in developing markets, have profit-and-loss responsibility and oversee aspects of marketing other than advertising, including media buying. They've led the way in consolidating Unilever's far-flung categories into unified operations under the "One Unilever" restructuring program ushered in by Mr. Cescau.

The company is in the midst of 20,000 job cuts globally and in the process of trying to sell its North American laundry detergent business.

Unilever also has consolidated management duties recently in the U.S. Amanda Sourry, currently VP-general manager of meal solutions and New Vitality, was named last month to become senior VP-general manager over the entire Unilever U.S. foods business. Kevin George, VP-general manager of Unilever's deodorant business, added duties over hair-care at the same time.
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