PARIS – Chanel’s appointment of a new global managing director for Unilever builds on a long, albeit occasional, tradition of recruiting senior executives from fast-growing consumer goods companies.
Leena Nair, who spent 30 years at the Anglo-Dutch giant, most recently as director of human resources, will take up her post at the end of January, assuming a title previously held by Chanel co-owner Alain Wertheimer.
Wertheimer will now become Chanel’s global executive chairman, according to the company.
“Chanel follows a trend of attracting the best FMCG talent to manage luxury goods,” observed Luca Solca, senior research analyst, global luxury goods at Bernstein.
âUnilever and P&G are management reservoirs for the relatively young luxury goods industry. The cases of Toni Belloni at LVMH and Fabrizio Freda at EstÃ©e Lauder are a reference in this regard.
Given her international experience and her HR expertise, pioneer Nair is also confident in helping Chanel advance her diversity and inclusion ambitions, as she has done spectacularly at Unilever.
According to Chanel, Nair has “built a global reputation for progressive, people-centered leadership delivering significant business impact” and went on to describe her as a “well-respected visionary leader, whose ability to champion a goal at long term – the driven agenda has a consistently strong record of business results.
In a separate statement, Unilever CEO Alan Jope said Nair had made an âexceptional contributionâ to the global consumer giant over the past three decades.
âLeena has been a trailblazer throughout her career at Unilever, but no more so than in her role as HRD, where she has been a driving force behind our equity, diversity and inclusion agenda, transforming our leadership development and our preparation for the future of work. She has played a vital role in building our forward-looking organization, âhe said.
“I am also particularly grateful for his leadership over the past two years and for the way our HR teams have helped Unilever overcome the many challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic with great care, compassion and professionalism,” Jope added.
Unilever has yet to reveal its successor.
Nair was Unilever’s first wife, Asian first and youngest CHRO, according to the company. She joined the group in 1992 as a management intern for Hindustan Lever in India. In 2006, she became Managing Director of Human Resources for Hindustan Lever.
In 2013, she became Senior Vice President HR Leadership and Organizational Development and Global Head of Diversity, and in 2016, she took up her role as CHRO and member of the Unilever Leadership Executive.
In 2020, Unilever, the parent company of brands such as Dove, Paula’s Choice, Ben & Jerry’s and Vaseline, achieved sales of â¬ 50.7 billion and net profit of â¬ 6.1 billion.
It is understood that Nair’s appointment has no impact on any of Chanel’s senior executives.
Among the most visible are Bruno Pavlovsky, president of Chanel mode and Chanel SAS, a veteran of the Paris-based company.
Nair is also a non-executive member of British Telecom, a member of the board of directors of the Leverhulme Trust and a non-executive director of the UK government’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department.
Wertheimer took over as CEO of Chanel in 2016 after the surprise ousting of Maureen Chiquet, who had been its global chief executive since 2007.
Revenues of private company Chanel totaled $ 10.1 billion in 2020, down 18% at comparable rates.
Reporting the numbers last June, the company noted that revenues grew to double digits in the first six months of 2021 and that its operating profit margin for the full year was on track to return to levels. 2019 levels.
The brand recently unveiled its MÃ©tiers d’Art collection in the new specialist workshop center of the French luxury house on the outskirts of Paris.
Alongside this event, Pavlovsky also gave a masterclass in front of hundreds of students, also sharing the stage with brand ambassador Pharrell Williams.
The rapper and entrepreneur praised the center, known as 19M, for supporting Chanel’s predominantly female workforce and creating opportunities for people in the surrounding neighborhood near Porte d’Aubervilliers, an area that has faced an influx of homeless migrants in recent years.
Williams told young people that Chanel is committed to increasing diversity in its ranks. The brand hired Fiona Pargeter as Head of Diversity and Inclusion in 2019.
âThe intention is to diversify. The intention is to take a more democratic approach from France itself. We know that there have been tensions with our African brothers and sisters here in this country, our Arab brothers and sisters in this country. Chanel understands it, âWilliams said.