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EXECUTIVE APPOINTMENTS

Top Unilever FMCG executive poached to head up fashion brand

By our News Team | 2021

Leena Nair to leave senior role at Unilever to take over the day-to-day running of luxury fashion house Chanel.

In a surprise move, one of the world’s top luxury goods brands has poached a senior executive from FMCG giant Unilever to be its new CEO.

Leena Nair, who is currently global head of HR at Unilever, joins French-founded but UK-based fashion house Chanel from early in the new year. She has been with Unilever for three decades and filled various roles, including being a member of the company’s powerful executive committee.

Top-end fashion houses like Chanel rarely make such appointments from outside their tightly knit industry, and often CEOs will come from the families that traditionally control many of these brands. There are occasional exceptions, though, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that Estee Lauder recruited Fabrizio Freda, a snack-food executive at Procter & Gamble, to become its Chief Executive in 2009.

Executive Appointments

Leena Nair photo by Shinykatie, via Wikipedia

Wertheimer brothers have held the reins

Chanel is a privately run business, with brothers Alain and Gerard Wertheimer holding the reins. Alain has been its CEO, but moves on to become Executive Chairman.

“In swapping fast-moving consumer goods for luxury, Ms. Nair joins a sector that analysts say is poised for rapid post-pandemic growth,” the Journal reported. “Bain & Co. forecasts that global luxury revenues will rise from an estimated €283-billion, equivalent to US$320-billion, this year to around €370-billion, or $418-billion, in 2025.

“Chanel, whose lines include fashion, fragrances, jewellery and skin care, was the world’s sixth-largest luxury group by revenue in 2020, according to Deloitte, with sales of $10.1-billion. Like other big luxury groups, Chanel’s sales took a hit from the pandemic, declining 17.6% in 2020 relative to the year before. That compared with an 11% decline for LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and a 17.5% decline at Kering SA.”

Nair is a British citizen of Indian descent and her appointment has caused widespread excitement in India. She will be based in London.

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