Nestle SA and Unilever Plc are replacing their veteran chief financial officers, part of a changing of the guard at consumer-goods companies as inflation pressures the industry.
Anna Manz, the finance boss of the London Stock Exchange Group, will take over from Nestle CFO Francois-Xavier Roger when she leaves her current role.
Unilever’s Graeme Pitkethly plans to retire by the end of May next year. The 56-year-old finance executive will be working with a new CEO starting in July as Royal FrieslandCampina’s Hein Schumacher takes over from Alan Jope.
Others in the industry like Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc and Carlsberg A/S are also hiring new bosses. The changes come as the industry grapples with a cost-of-living crisis that’s forcing shoppers to tighten their belts and trade down to unbranded products.
The new managers will need to stem the erosion of market share without spending too much on advertising or new products, threatening profitability.
Manz, 50, will be the most senior woman in the company. Last week, the group picked Stephanie Pullings Hart, a former executive, as its next head of operations.
Roger and Pitkethly took on their finance roles just months apart in 2015. The consumer-goods makers both doubled shareholders’ money when including reinvested dividends during their tenures.
Roger, 61, helped steer Nestle during a period of impressive growth even as the pandemic caused supply shortages, disruption and uneven demand in recent years. After handing over to Manz he will “pursue new professional challenges,” Nestle said without elaborating.
“We are disappointed to see Roger go, as he has built, to our eyes, an effective partnership with Nestle CEO Mark Schneider,” a Jefferies analyst wrote in a note. The stock fell as much as 3 per cent in Swiss trading.
Roger helped manage more than 100 deals, including the sale of Nestle’s dermatology business, the purchase of licenses to sell coffee products under the Starbucks brand and the divestment of part of the company’s stake in L’Oreal SA.
The last years of Pitkethly’s 21-year stint at Unilever have been more chaotic. To rebuff a takeover by Kraft Heinz Co. in 2017, the company committed to a margin improvement, aggressively cutting costs and harming its brands. Then it failed on its first attempt to unify its corporate structure in 2018, and last year Unilever made a doomed and much-criticized attempt to buy the consumer-health arm of U.K. drugmaker GSK Plc. Unilever shares fell as much as 3.2 per cent in London.
Despite investor frustration, much of Unilever’s top brass has remained the same, so a broader overhaul is expected after Schumacher starts as CEO.
“We have been concerned about the culture of Unilever for several years and we believe a completely new management team is a good chance for a fresh start,” an RBC analyst said in a note.
--With assistance from Thomas Mulier.
(Corrects to delete reference about Manz being Nestle’s first female CFO)