- Nestle has named Ulf Mark Schneider, CEO of healthcare provider Fresenius, as CEO successor for Paul Bulcke, effective Jan. 1.
- Bulcke will assume the position of chairman when Peter Brabeck-Letmathe steps down at Nestle's annual general meeting in April 2017, confirming speculation that he was next in line for the role. Bulcke will resign from his position as CEO on Dec. 31 as part of a "minimum cooling-off period" before assuming his non-executive chairman role, StreetInsider reported.
- Schneider's appointment marks the first time since 1922 that Nestle has tapped an outsider as its CEO, according to a Bloomberg report.
Naming Schneider CEO supports Nestle's recent focus on repositioning itself as a scientifically-driven nutrition, health, and wellness company. Schneider served as Fresenius' CEO since 2003, and his healthcare background will play an integral part in Nestle's recent work with medical foods and health science in general.
A fresh, outsider's perspective may also be what Nestle needs to turn things around and get back on track with its self-imposed goals for sales growth. While Nestle has maintained a 5% to 6% target for sales growth, the company missed that target for three consecutive years and in quarterly reports so far this year. In the latest quarter, Nestle reported 3.9% organic sales growth, which was lower than the 4.2% growth rate for 2015, the lowest rate for Nestle in six years.
Schneider will pick up where Bulcke left off, as he spent the last years of his CEO tenure trying to move Nestle away from dependence on growth-challenged packaged foods. This could include a number of health science-related acquisitions, as Schneider has been described as "a bit of an M&A junkie," Berenberg analyst James Targett said in a note. Schneider has led Fresenius through more than a dozen acquisitions since taking the top job in 2003.
Nestle's health science and skin health divisions will report directly to the new CEO, effective Jan. 1.