© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The company logo for Unilever is displayed on a screen on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., February 17, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo
By Richa Naidu
LONDON (Reuters) – Unilever (LON:) top-10 investor Lindsell Train welcomed its recent management changes and said it had already discussed the consumer goods company’s next steps with the incoming chairman.
The maker of Dove soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream this year named a new chief executive, chief financial officer and chairperson in short succession.
These moves demonstrated that Unilever thinks that a “fresh perspective on all aspects of the business is necessary”, Nick Train, manager of the Finsbury Growth & Income Trust and co-founder of Lindsell Train, told Reuters.
Lindsell Train, which LSEG data shows as Unilever’s ninth biggest shareholder, is recognised in the investment community as an influential investor but rarely speaks publicly about the individual companies it has stakes in.
Train’s comments come less than two weeks after new Unilever CEO Hein Schumacher laid out long-awaited plans to simplify the business, admitting it had underperformed in recent years.
Schumacher said Unilever would focus on 30 key brands which account for 70% of its sales.
“We are always looking for our FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) companies to assess and re-assess the assets they own in a clear-eyed manner to ensure that they are being run as well as possible,” Train said in an emailed statement.
Schumacher replaced Alan Jope, who had a rocky final year as Unilever CEO. A bungled attempt to buy GSK’s consumer healthcare business was followed by billionaire activist investor Nelson Peltz joining the board.
Shortly after Schumacher’s appointment in July, the group announced that Compass Chairman Ian Meakins would head up its board from December, taking over from Nils Anderson.
“We maintain a productive open dialogue with the company and most recently met with the new (Unilever) chairman to hear his view on the most beneficial next steps,” Train said.
Unilever declined to comment.
The company last month announced further management changes, including the departure of Hanneke Faber, president of nutrition, and the appointment of Priya Nair to head its beauty and wellbeing business.
Matt Close, president of its ice cream business, will also leave after a more than three-decade career with Unilever.
Unilever also said its board had decided to freeze Schumacher’s fixed pay for the next two years.
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