Reckitt Says Four Of Its Top Leaders Will Depart Firm -- WSJ

By Saabira Chaudhuri Features Dow Jones Newswires

This article is being republished as part of our daily reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S. print edition of The Wall Street Journal (September 5, 2017).

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LONDON -- Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC said four senior executives are leaving the firm, an unusually large exodus at a time when the consumer giant, whose brands include Durex condoms and Scholl foot-care products, is absorbing its biggest-ever acquisition and coping with a series of headwinds.

Reckitt told employees last week that its chiefs for information technology, human resources, developing markets and category development are all leaving. The four are all members of its 10-strong senior executive committee.

The high number of departures took industry watchers by surprise and spooked investors. Reckitt shares were trading down 1% early Monday.

"RB has typically had low turnover among senior management, for 40% of the executive committee to leave simultaneously is, we believe, essentially unprecedented in recent years," said Société Générale analyst Iain Simpson.

A person familiar with the matter said the departures were all voluntary, and the timing represents a "confluence of events."

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Reckitt faces some of the same challenges as its larger peers like Procter & Gamble Co. and Unilever PLC. Consumer tastes and shopping habits have changed dramatically, in many cases dragging on sales in markets around the world.

Reckitt has also been dealing with its own headwinds. Its sales in South Korea were wiped out due to a consumer boycott after its humidifier disinfectant was tied to dozens of deaths and injuries.

It was also hit by the Petya cyberattack in June, which the company said would hit sales.

Reckitt is currently integrating U.S. baby-food maker Mead Johnson, which it bought for $16.6 billion in June. The deal almost doubles the size of the British company's consumer-health business and pushes it deeper into emerging markets, but Mead's growth has been weaker than analysts expected since it agreed to be acquired by Reckitt in February.

Reckitt confirmed Monday that Darrell Stein, Reckitt's information technology head will leave on October 1. He will be replaced by PepsiCo Inc. executive Seth Cohen, currently the beverage giant's chief information officer for Europe and Africa. Reckitt didn't provide details about the departure.

Deborah Yates, head of HR, is leaving at the end of year. She is returning to her native Australia to be with her aging parents, according to the person familiar with the matter. She will be succeeded by Gurveen Singh, Reckitt's head of HR for developing markets.

Frederic Larmuseau, Reckitt's developing markets head, is leaving at the end of the year as well. He is taking on the chief executive job of privately held JAB Holdings coffee unit Jacobs Douwe Egberts. JAB has a roughly 8% stake in Reckitt and is led by the consumer company's former CEO Bart Becht. Reckitt didn't disclose a replacement for Mr. Larmuseau.

Roberto Funari, who heads category development -- a role that involves working with retailers to drive sales -- is also leaving at the end of the year, according to Reckitt. The company hasn't named his successor.

Ms. Yates and Messrs. Larmuseau and Funari will all depart at the end of the year. None of the four departing executives responded immediately to requests for comment.

Write to Saabira Chaudhuri at saabira.chaudhuri@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

September 05, 2017 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)