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Unilever Will Freeze CEO Salary to Try to Appease Frustrated Shareholders

Oct. 31, 2023
Hein Schumacher took over CEO post in July and has had to juggle investor unease regarding social purpose strategies versus performance, as well as company’s involvement in Russia marketplace.

Unilever, which owns Hellman’s, Ben & Jerry's and Magnum among its large stable of CPG brands, apparently will freeze the salary of CEO Hein Schumacher until 2026 in an attempt to ease tension and calm the frustrations of shareholders who have voiced their displeasure with the performance of the company, according to several news reports.

Schumacher will not see any increases to his fixed salary of approximately $1.95 million in 2024 or 2025, the company said. He took over the CEO role in July of this year, earning a 20% increase in pay from his predecessor, Alan Jope.

The move is the latest in a long battle with investors over the company’s performance. One of its larger investors accused it of worrying more about virtue-signaling than focusing on performance back in January.

Under Jope, Unilever pledged it would sell off brands that “are not able to stand for something more important than just making your hairy shiny, your skin soft, your clothes whiter or your food tastier,” according to reports, and also said the company would not back down on the approach. Then, just last week, Schumacher seemingly walked back Jope’s strategy, saying the company would not “force fit” social purposes on its brands.

Investors have also lodged complaints about Unilever’s continued presence in Russia despite the country’s invasion of Ukraine, while other major western world brands have pulled their business from Russia. Schumacher responded to those complaints in a recent statement on the company’s web site, saying in part, “I understand why there are calls for our company to leave the country and we continue to look at our options, within a context that has become more complex following recent regulatory developments in Russia. We remain steadfast in our condemnation of the war in Ukraine.”

About the Author

Andy Hanacek | Senior Editor

Andy Hanacek has covered meat, poultry, bakery and snack foods as a B2B editor for nearly 20 years, and has toured hundreds of processing plants and food companies, sharing stories of innovation and technological advancement throughout the food supply chain. In 2018, he won a Folio:Eddie Award for his unique "From the Editor's Desk" video blogs, and he has brought home additional awards from Folio and ASBPE over the years. In addition, Hanacek led the Meat Industry Hall of Fame for several years and was vice president of communications for We R Food Safety, a food safety software and consulting company.

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