Outgoing Unilever chief makes plea for unity in speech to shareholders

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Paul Polman leaves after ten years in the job (Source: Getty)

Outgoing Unilever boss Paul Polman has asked shareholders to trust his successor as he prepares to step down next month.

The Dutchman announced his resignation months after investors shot down plans to combine the company’s London headquarters with that in the Netherlands.

Polman, 62, said investors will have to trust his successor Alan Jope, a veteran who has spent his entire career with the firm.

“We’ve not always looked eye to eye. We’ve not always agreed on all things,” Polman said at a seminar.

“Give the CEOs a little space [...] Trust the CEOs by what they do and what they deliver, far more than you do probably right now,” he said.

The boss highlighted shareholder returns of 290 per cent over a 10-year tenure during which he successfully fought off a $143bn hostile takeover from Kraft Heinz.

He advised Jope to “find the few [shareholders], like I have, that you trust and that you can talk to” and “really listen to them”.

He also called on shareholders to make their views more clear.

“It would also be good if some of you spoke up more, because you are all very supportive to us, so that we don’t get this negative perception being created by some papers who want to sell more the next day,” he said.