Unilever Picks Eugenio Minvielle to Head North America

Former President-France for Nestle Is Latest in String of Outsiders Hired by CEO Paul Polman

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- After a search of more than 14 months, Unilever has found its man to head North America, today naming Eugenio Minvielle, who was Nestle's president in France, as its new exec VP-North America.

Eugenio Minvielle
Eugenio Minvielle
Mr. Minvielle, 45, started his 20-year career in package goods at Procter & Gamble Co. before ultimately moving to Nestle, following a path not unfamiliar to Unilever watchers: CEO Paul Polman is also a P&G alum who moved to Nestle as chief financial officer and head of its Americas unit before being named to the top Unilever post in September 2008.

Mr. Minvielle, who is fluent in English, French and Spanish and has dual citizenship in Mexico and France, had been president-France for Nestle since 2004. Before that, he headed Nestle's operations in Mexico and Venezuela. The Mexican native originally worked there for Nestle in the late 1980s after earning a degree in marketing from North Texas University.

Then, he left to earn an M.B.A. from Harvard, working for Canon while there and joining Procter & Gamble Co. in Spain as a marketing director after graduation in 1991. It was there that Mr. Minvielle first became acquainted with Mr. Polman, who was P&G's VP-Iberia at the time. Mr. Minvielle joined Nestle in Spain in 1994.

The appointment of Mr. Minvielle is the latest of several moves Mr. Polman has made to put his own management team in place at Unilever. And he's the latest outsider to join a company that less than a decade ago was run primarily by longtime Unilever veterans.

The lengthy search for a North America chief puzzled some company watchers. Kevin Havelock left the post in February 2009 to become exec VP-global ice cream, and Unilever considered a number of internal and external candidates for the position in more than a year that followed, according to people familiar with the matter.

"Unilever is enormously fortunate to have attracted an executive of Eugenio's experience, talent and proven business performance," Mr. Polman said in a statement.

The North America post is responsible for Unilever operations in the U.S., Canada and Caribbean, and reports to Dave Lewis, who also recently assumed his role as president-Americas after the former Americas chief, Mike Polk, last month replaced Unilever veteran Vindi Banga as global president of home, foods and personal care. Mr. Polk, also a P&G alum, came to Unilever by way of Kraft in 2003.

Among other recent changes atop Unilever, company veteran Keith Weed earlier this month replaced another company veteran, Simon Clift, as chief marketing officer. Former banking executive Jean-Marc Huet replaced Jim Lawrence as chief financial officer earlier this year.

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