Unilever Shuffles Managers

BOSTON Unilever has made the latest in a series of senior management changes.

The company said John Rice, president of operations in the Americas, would retire in March. Michael Polk, who is currently group vp and president of Unilever U.S., will replace him. Polk joined Unilever in 2003 after 16 years at Kraft.

“I want to thank John for his many contributions to Unilever over the course of his career with the company,” Patrick Cescau, Unilever’s group chief executive said, in a statement. “Most recently this included his commitment to help build the new ‘One Unilever’ organization as well as the successful leadership of the Americas region for the past two years.”

Kevin Havelock, 49, who now runs Unilever’s U.K. operations, succeeds Polk. Havelock is the fourth person to hold that position in as many years.

Unilever has seen numerous management changes under Cescau, who joined Unilever as CEO 19 months ago. In 2005 he engineered a management re-organization plan called “One Unilever.” Since then the company has reduced the number of top managers from 1,200 to 500, with most of the cuts coming in European operations.

The company is expected to name Michael Treschow, a Swedish turnaround specialist, as chairman of the board early next year.

Interpublic Group’s Lowe and McCann Erickson; WPP Group’s JWT and Ogilvy & Mather; and Publicis Groupe-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty rank among Unilever’s top global agencies. The client spends more than $1 billion annually on marketing and advertising worldwide. Unilever spent nearly $700 milion on U.S. ads alone through the first 10 months of this year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.