SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (UK): Unity at last for Unilever as Burgmans becomes sole chairman: “Shell is to merge its UK and Dutch operating companies to create one company listed in the UK in the wake of a scandal involving overstatement of its reserves.” (ShellNews.net) 6 Feb 05
By Sylvia Pfeifer (Filed: 06/02/2005)
Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer products group, is set to scrap its historic tradition of having two chairmen as part of a corporate governance shake-up that could eventually lead to the company having a single headquarters in the UK.
Unilever, which owns brands such as Hellman's mayonnaise and Lipton tea, is expected to announce on Thursday that it will end its current system, where joint chairmen run its Dutch and UK parent companies. Under the plan Antony Burgmans, one of the co-chairmen, will become chairman of the group, while Patrick Cescau, the other co-chairman, will be named the new chief executive.
Unilever will also unveil details of its new corporate strategy, which will see it move away from the five-year Path to Growth initiative introduced by Niall FitzGerald, the former chairman.
Instead of setting margin and sales targets, the new strategy will place a greater focus on shareholder value using the measure of total shareholder return. The exact management structure will be finalised at a meeting of Unilever's board on Wednesday.
Last year Unilever created a unified board in an attempt to meet shareholder demands for better corporate governance. But the group is expected to stop short of ending its dual stock exchange listings in the Netherlands and Britain. However, bankers said the decision to scrap the co-chairman structure could eventually lead to Unilever having a single headquarters in London, where Cescau is based.
The overhaul comes after months of debate within Unilever, which has been closely watching developments at Royal Dutch/Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant.
Shell is to merge its UK and Dutch operating companies to create one company listed in the UK in the wake of a scandal involving overstatement of its reserves.