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Unilever cuts 1,500 management jobs in global overhaul

By Anna Cooban, CNN Business

Unilever is cutting 1,500 management jobs around the world as the consumer goods giant comes under intense pressure from shareholders to boost growth.

The cuts amount to a 15% reduction in the number of senior managers and 5% of junior managers, Unilever said in a statement on Tuesday. Factory workers will not be affected.

Unilever, which owns household-name brands including Ben & Jerry’s and Dove, said it’s moving to a “simpler” structure divided into five business units — Beauty and Wellbeing, Personal Care, Home Care, Nutrition, and Ice Cream — each with their own president.

CEO Alan Jope said the overhaul will allow Unilever to be “more responsive to consumer and channel trends” with “crystal-clear accountability for delivery.”

“Growth remains our top priority and these changes will underpin our pursuit of this,” added Jope.

Shareholders have ratcheted up the pressure on Unilever after its stock sank 10% last year. The firm’s shares got hammered last week after the company revealed it had made three failed bids to acquire GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer health care business. Unilever said Thursday that it would not raise its rejected £50 billion ($68 billion) offer, and the stock subsequently bounced back.

Fundsmith, one of Unilever’s biggest shareholders, labeled the failed takeover a “near death experience.” Fundsmith CEO Terry Smith criticized the company in a letter to investors earlier this month, arguing it had prized publicity-driven sustainability efforts over “the fundamentals of the business.”

Unilever shares rose 7% on Monday in London following reports that investor Nelson Peltz, the Wendy’s chairman and legendary activist investor known for targeting Oreo maker Mondelez and Procter & Gamble, is building up a stake in company. The stock shed 1% on Tuesday.

Unilever employs 149,000 people globally.

— Julia Horowitz and Paul R. La Monica contributed to this report.

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