Global Brand

New Beiersdorf CEO is a move for continuity

outgoing beiersdorf ceo
Time to say goodbye. Source: DPA

The wait for a new CEO is over at Beiersdorf, maker of the Nivea skin-care brand. The board confirmed Stefan De Loecker to succeed Stefan Heidenreich as chief executive of the Hamburg-based company on Monday.

The appointment was virtually certain after Mr. Heidenreich announced his end-of-the-year retirement in June and Mr. De Loecker, who has been on the executive board since 2014, was a kind of acting CEO in a trial period for permanently taking over the top job.

Controlling shareholder Michael Herz, heir to the Tchibo coffee fortune, is well-known as a micro manager, and the trial for Mr. de Loecker was typical of his hands-on approach. Mr. Heidenreich will remain in charge until the end of the year before making way for his successor.

Investors were happy with the vote for continuity in a company that has doubled its share price and accumulated €5 billion in reserves during Mr. Heidenreich’s six years at the helm.

stefan de loecker, beiersdorf
Stefan De Loecker. Source: Beiersdorf/DPA

Under Heidenreich’s management, Beiersdorf was picky about new acquisitions, making none despite its full war chest. Instead, the firm focused on improving margins, which have now nearly reach the level of Nivea’s much bigger rival, L’Oréal.

This was due in part to development of the super-luxury La Prairie line of skin care, which does particularly well in Asia. But Mr. De Loecker also contributed by expanding the company’s reach in emerging markets in India, the Middle East and Africa. The Belgian executive, who previously worked at Nestlé and Tesco, most recently was in charge of Beiersdorf’s North and South American business.

The board praised the company’s focus on consumers and internationalization, along with its commitment to digital innovation and sustainable growth. However, Beiersdorf, which also makes Tesa tape and adhesive products, suffered a cyberattack last year that interrupted sales and distribution, costing an estimated €35 million.

The challenge for the new CEO will be to deploy that hefty reserve in an acquisition to expand or diversify the company and keep it on its path of growth.

Christoph Kapalschinski covers consumer goods, textiles and food for Handelsblatt. Darrell Delamaide adapted this into English for Handelsblatt Global. To contact the author: kapalschinski@handelsblatt.com

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