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Unilever united

The Guardian: Unilever united

Posted 15 May 2004

Great to see Unilever catching on to normal corporate governance by introducing the concept of non-executive directors for the first time yesterday.

Admittedly the group had wanted to for some time but was stymied by its Anglo-Dutch structure and the fact that non-execs were not recognised in Holland, where they have supervisory boards instead. But Dutch law has changed.

Unilever made do with “advisory board members” in Britain who were not directly responsible to shareholders.

Now they are and these non-execs will have to face re-election every year and will form a majority on the newly unified Unilever board.

It is splendid stuff ahead of the group’s 75th anniversary next year. All they need now is some candidates. Some of the line-up – Sir Leon Brittan and David Simon – look like political has-beens rather than sharp-eyed commercial guns.

And what is Jeroen van de Veer – the new top man at Shell – doing on the Unilever rostrum? Presumably learning how a unified board can work for an Anglo-Dutch group. But given the scale of his problems at Shell he might have saved Unilever potential future embarrassment by standing down.,3604,1215506,00.html

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