The British-born chief executive of toothpaste maker Colgate-Palmolive is leaving the position after almost 12 years, in the latest changing of the guard at the world’s largest consumer goods companies.
Ian Cook, who joined Colgate in the UK in 1976 and became chief executive in 2007, will be replaced by chief operating officer Noel Wallace at the start of April. Mr Cook, 66, will stay on as executive chairman for a transition period that the company said would last up to a year.
Colgate-Palmolive announced the change at the helm a little more than two weeks after publishing its annual results, in which it said it expected earnings per share for 2019 to decline by “low-single-digit” levels.
While Mr Cook had been expected to stand down, said Ali Dibadj, analyst at Bernstein, he had done so earlier than Wall Street anticipated. “It’s kind of odd that this was announced just after earnings,” Mr Dibadj said.
Mr Cook joins a growing list of top executives in the sector who are leaving as rapidly changing shopper tastes upend decades-old business models. The chief executives of Unilever, PepsiCo and Beiersdorf have left within the past six months, following earlier changes of the guard at Nestlé, Mondelez International and Campbell Soup.
Mr Dibadj said: “The consumer companies are much harder to run today than they’ve been before.”
Shares in Colgate, whose other brands include Softsoap, Speed Stick antiperspirant and Ajax cleaner, have shed 15 per cent since they reached a high of $77.50 last January. They were unchanged at $65.79 in after-hours trading on Monday.
Mr Wallace has held several roles at Colgate-Palmolive since he joined the New York-based company in 1987. He was named president and COO in July 2018 and previously ran the toothpaste maker’s North American operations.
“Noel is a truly outstanding leader who is extremely well-prepared to lead Colgate after a highly successful 32-year career guiding Colgate businesses all around the world,” Mr Cook said in a statement.
Stephen Sadove, lead director, said: “It’s very gratifying to see the board’s succession planning process, which began more than two years ago, come to fruition.
“We’re extremely grateful for Ian’s strong leadership as CEO and we are pleased that he has agreed, at the board’s request, to provide transition guidance to Noel.”
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