Newell Rubbermaid has selected a Unilever executive who serves on its board to be its next president and CEO.
Michael B. Polk, 50, will take the top job July 18, following the retirement of Mark Ketchum. Ketchum has led the company since 2005, and has been widely praised for transforming Newell Rubbermaid.
As president of Global Foods, Home and Personal Care, Polk was responsible for developing and marketing Unilever's $64 billion portfolio. He has been with the company for eight years.
RBC Capital Markets analyst Jason Gere said investors expected Polk's appointment, and the announcement should be well received. "This was the candidate that we felt best fit [Newell Rubbermaid] as he has global, consumer and brand and marketing expertise," Gere wrote in a research note.
In a statement, Newell Rubbermaid Board Chairman Michael Cowhig called Polk an "outstanding marketer, innovator and leader." He has a track record, Cowhig said, of growing global brands.
Newell Rubbermaid saw its stock plummet earlier this month, when it lowered its 2011 sales projections in response to economic conditions and weak consumer confidence. Ketchum said then that the company still expects sales to grow, but at a lower level.
The company intends to raise prices to keep up with increasing materials costs.
The Sandy Springs consumer products company had 2010 sales of $5.8 billion, and employs 1,300 people in metro Atlanta and 22,000 globally. Since Ketchum took over, it has shed about $3 billion worth of business in categories that had low margins or lacked room for innovation, Newell Rubbermaid spokesman David Doolittle said. Ketchum also acquired $1 billion worth of faster-growth business.
Doolittle said while the company's stock price is below 2005 levels, Ketchum has stabilized Newell Rubbermaid, transforming the business model to focus on innovation and the consumer, as well as Newell Rubbermaid's brands. He restructured the company's manufacturing and supply chain and changed the company culture, to focus on collaboration.
Ketchum intends to remain on Newell Rubbermaid's board until May. He announced his intent to retire in January.
Polk has served on Newell Rubbermaid's board since 2009, and is a member of the audit committee. He currently lives in New Jersey. Prior to working at Unilever, Polk was a division president at Kraft Foods. He has also worked at Procter & Gamble, where Ketchum worked for three decades.
Michael B. Polk
Education: BS in Operations Research and Industrial Engineering from Cornell University, MBA from Harvard Business School
Last job: President of Global Foods, Home and Personal Care at Unilever
Newell Rubbermaid brands include: Rubbermaid, Sharpie, Graco, Calphalon, Irwin, Lenox, Levolor, Paper Mate, Dymo, Waterman, Parker, Goody, Rubbermaid Commercial Products and Aprica.
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