Fashion House Chanel Appoints Unilever Consumer Goods Veteran as CEO

The logo of the fashion house Chanel is seen in a store in Paris, France, June 18, 2020. REUTERS / Charles Platiau

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PARIS, December 14 (Reuters) – French fashion house Chanel on Tuesday appointed Unilever (ULVR.L) executive Leena Nair as its new global CEO, hiring a consumer goods veteran to lead one of the most major global luxury goods groups.

Nair’s career with Unilever spanned 30 years, most recently as Chief Human Resources Officer and member of the company’s executive committee.

A 52-year-old Indian national, Nair is a rare foreigner at the helm of the tightly controlled family fashion house known for its tweed suits, quilted handbags and No.5 perfume.

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She succeeds the American businesswoman Maureen Chiquet, from the fashion world and CEO of Chanel for nine years until early 2016. She has not been replaced until now.

Chanel said in a statement that 73-year-old French billionaire Alain Wertheimer, who owns Chanel with his brother Gérard Wertheimer, would move to the post of global executive chairman of the group, which started as a rue Cambon hat shop in Paris.

Chanel was founded in 1910 by fashion legend Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel and has become a byword for French chic.

The group said Nair, who at Unilever supervised 150,000 people, would join in late January and be based in London. He added that the new appointments would ensure his “long-term success as a private company”.

The hiring of Nair, who rose through Unilever’s ranks after starting as an intern at the factory, comes as the fashion industry is under pressure to display a more inclusive approach.

Under her leadership, Unilever has achieved gender parity in global management, according to a profile from Harper’s Bazaar released last month, which also underscored its commitment to paying the living wage throughout the supply chain.

Nair is a non-executive member of the board of British Telecom and previously served as a non-executive director of the UK government’s business, energy and industrial strategy department.

Chanel has fiercely defended its independence and did not start releasing its financial results until 2018. She said in July that she planned to increase double-digit sales this year from their pre-pandemic level. of $ 12.3 billion in 2019.

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Additional reporting by Siddharth Cavale Editing by Susan Fenton

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