Unilever names Ian Meakins Chair following CEO change

By Julia Wray | Published: 28-Jul-2023

The Compass Group and Rexel Chair will replace Nils Andersen, who will step down from the Unilever board in 2024 after nine years

Unilever has announced further leadership changes following the onboarding of new CEO Hein Schumacher

On 1 September, Ian Meakins, who is currently Chair of British food service company Compass Group and France-based energy firm Rexel, will join Unilever’s board of directors as a non-executive director and Chair Designate. 

He will then take over the Chair role from Nils Andersen from 1 December.

The Dove and Sunsilk owner said Andersen would step down from the board, following nine years of service, at Unilever’s Annual General Meeting in May 2024.

“It is a great honour to have been asked to succeed Nils as Chair of Unilever,” said Meakins. 

“I look forward to working with the board and with Hein and his leadership team to help realise Unilever’s full potential and create value for all its stakeholders.”

Andersen added: “Ian has a strong track record of success in executive and non-executive roles across a range of industries. 

“I am sure Unilever will greatly benefit from his extensive experience and I am confident that he will provide the board with strong and effective leadership.”

Meakins served as Chief Executive of plumbing firm Wolseley (now Ferguson) from 2009 to 2016, and from 2007 to 2009 was Chief Executive of Travelex Holdings. 

Prior to this he helmed Alliance Unichem from 2004 until its merger with Boots in 2006.

He has also held positions at Diageo, Bain & Company and Procter & Gamble.

Meakins’ appointment is just the latest in a series of leadership shifts at Unilever. 

In January, the conglomerate announced that Schumacher, the former President of American food producer Heinz, would be taking the reins from longtime Unilever exec Alan Jope, who had revealed his retirement plans in September 2022. 

Jope had enjoyed a 35-year career with the company. 

Unilver’s CFO Graeme Pitkethly also retired from the consumer goods goliath in May this year, while Chief Digital and Commercial Officer and member of the Unilever Leadership Executive (ULE) team Conny Braams will depart Unilever in August.

According to Bloomberg, the company is currently on the hunt for a new CFO. 

Commenting on Andersen’s impending departure, Schumacher said: “On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Nils for his excellent leadership of our company as Chair over the last four years.

“Nils chaired the company through a period of significant volatility and some of the most challenging operational conditions in decades. 

“He was instrumental in sharpening Unilever’s focus on operational performance, creating a simpler and more agile company through the unification of Unilever NV and PLC into one legal structure, and implementing our new category focused organisation.”

Unilever completed what was its second attempt at merging its British and Dutch divisions in 2020.  

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