AMSTERDAM, Netherlands (AP) -- Unilever NV/PLC, the maker of Dove soaps, Axe deodorants and Ben & Jerry's ice cream, said Thursday it will appoint Paul Polman, currently an executive for Nestle SA, as chief executive officer.
Polman, a 52-year-old Dutchman, will replace Patrick Cescau, 59, who will leave at the end of this year, Unilever said in a statement.
In July, Cescau had hinted he was ready to quit, saying he "achieved a lot of what I wanted to achieve" at Unilever and it was natural for the company to seek a successor.
Cescau, who is French, became the company's first sole chief executive after a profit warning in 2004 led the company to unify a clumsy two-board corporate structure -- though it continues to operate from dual headquarters, in London and Rotterdam. Cescau was widely credited with selling off mediocre businesses and investing to promote sales growth at Unilever's biggest brands.
However, the company's shares continued to lag behind those of Nestle and Procter & Gamble Co., its two larger competitors.
Unilever reported a 21 percent fall in net profit in the second quarter, to euro909 million ($1.41 billion).
Shares were trading 6 percent higher at euro19.96 ($28.90) in Amsterdam on news of Polman's appointment.
Polman joined Nestle in 2006 as chief financial officer, and is currently head of its Americas division. Prior to that he had a 26-year career at Procter & Gamble, eventually serving as European chief.
He had been tapped as a possible successor to Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, but lost out to Paul Bulcke last year.
Unilever chairman Michael Treschow praised Polman as "a great talent with significant international experience and an excellent track record."
Nestle said its Europe chief Luis Cantarell will take over the Americas region from Polman, who had been with the company for two years.