Global food giant Nestle SA announced on Thursday that its chief financial officer, Paul Polman, will head the company’s Zone Americas business unit beginning in February 2008. Polman will replace Paul Bulcke, who was appointed chief executive of the Switzerland-based company last month.
Polman will be replaced by James Singh, Nestle’s current head of acquisitions and business development. His appointment will take effect in January. Singh joined Nestle’s Canadian operation in 1981, and has been a key player in several important acquisitions, including the deals involving Alcon Inc., Ralston Purina, Novartis Medical Nutrition, and Gerber, noted company spokesman François-Xavier Perroud.
Last month news reports speculated that Polman would beat out Bulcke for the CEO spot. Polman joined Nestle in 2005 after a quarter-century at Procter & Gamble, where he was credited with turning around its European business.
The new appointments were announced amid news that Nestle posted a 9 percent rise in sales during the past nine months, and that the company was establishing a new food-service business unit dubbed Nestle Professional. With $82.85 billion in annual sales, Nestle manages a variety of brands — from Stouffers to Perrier to the Jenny Craig weight-loss operation — to go with its signature chocolate products. It has also been among the world’s most acquisitive concerns, purchasing the Gerber baby-food division of Novartis for $5.5 billion earlier this year, for example.
Polman’s new duties will put him at the helm of four markets: the United States, Mexico, Brazil, and Canada.