Alan Jope is a Scottish businessman who was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Unilever N.V. and Unilever PLC in January 2019. Jope had previously served as President of Unilever’s Personal Care business (later to be renamed the Beauty & Personal Care Division) for five very successful years. During his 34-year career with the consumer goods giant, Jope has made his mark as a highly ambitious executive with the talents to match. If you want to know what it takes to become the head of one of the biggest companies in the world, keep reading as we take you through ten things you didn’t know about Alan Jope.
1. He’s a Harvard graduate
Jope was born in Scotland in either 1963 or 1964 (no one seems to know for sure, and so far, he’s shown no inclination to set the record straight). After finishing high school, he won a place at Edinburgh University, graduating with honors with a degree in Commerce. After a gap of a few decades, he eventually returned to education, this time in the US. In 2001 (and at a point where he’d already achieved great things with Unilever), he graduated from Harvard Business School’s General Management Program.
2. He’s worked at Unilever since 1985
Jope joined Unilever in 1985 as a graduate marketing trainee. It wouldn’t take him long to make his mark. Just a decade later, he was appointed Vice President of Personal Care for Unilever Thailand with additional responsibility for Hair Care in Asia Pacific. From there, the only way was up. His next promotion came in 1999 with his appointment to the VP of Marketing for Unilever’s Helene Curtis business. Subsequent positions included the Global Category Leader for several of Unilever’s Foods & Refreshment divisions, President of Unilever’s Home & Personal Care business in North America, Chair of Unilever in Greater China, President of Unilever’s businesses across North Asia, President of Unilever Russia, Africa & Middle East, and President of Unilever’s Personal Care business. In January 2019, he achieved his latest and greatest promotion with his appointment to the position of Chief Executive Officer of Unilever N.V. and Unilever PLC.
3. He gets a huge bonus
The duties of a CEO aren’t minor, especially when we’re talking about the CEO of a company with the size, the scope, and the reputation of Unilever. With that in mind, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that Jope is renumerated well for his troubles. But just how well might. On his appointment to the position of CEO, it was announced the Jope would be earning an annual salary of €1.45m ($1.72m). Now, that in itself would be enough to make most of our jaws drop. But when you learn what his bonus is, your jaw is likely to hit the floor. For each year that Jope achieves his targets, he earns a staggering bonus of up to 225% of his salary, two-thirds of which are in Unilever shares.
4. He doubled the size of Unilever’s business in China
You don’t get to be CEO of a company like Unilever if you haven’t already shown what you’re made of. And you certainly don’t get to earn the kind of salary Jope does if the higher powers don’t think you’re worth it. So, what did Jope do that was noteworthy enough to get him both a promotion and a mammoth paycheck? A lot, actually, but if we were going to cite just one thing, it would be doubling the size of Unilever’s business in China and North Asia – no easy task, by any stretch of the imagination, but apparently one he managed with ease.
5. He’s running Unilever from his study
At the outbreak of the COVID crisis, some businesses were slow to react. Not so Unilever. As soon as the pandemic began to make its presence known, Jope ordered every one of the company’s 60,000 workers to work from home. It’s actually a situation that suits Jope well. Speaking to the economist.com, the CEO explained in his typically relaxed fashion that working from his study was ‘dead easy’, freeing him as it did of the dreaded daily commute and giving him more time to liaise with his underlings.
6. He’s committed to sustainability
As milkeninstitute.org writes, when William Lever packaged his first bar of soap in the 19th Century, he probably had no idea that his fledgling company would one day grow to include more than 400 brands. But grow it did. While Jope is committed to continuing that growth, he understands that in today’s world, that growth needs to be rooted in sustainability. “The business case for sustainability is, in our view, completely proven,” he’s said. “Our brands that score higher on social and environmental responsibility are growing much faster, almost twice as fast as the rest of the portfolio.…It has been an absolute spur for innovation.”
7. He was a guest judge on The Apprentice
Look deep enough into Jope’s resume, and you’ll find something that may surprise you. Once upon a time, Jope was a guest judge on the second series of “The Apprentice”. His appearance came in 2004 in an episode entitled “Intellectual Horsepower”. Starring alongside him on the panel was Alan “Ace” Greenberg, chair of the ill-fated Bear Stearns, and, of course, the future president himself, Donald Trump.
8. He puts his family first
Jope may be a high-flying businessman, but he knows exactly where his priorities lie… and it’s not in the boardroom. A committed family man, Jope defines himself as a father and a husband before all else. “I don’t define myself by my work at all,” he said during an interview with Entrepreneur, adding that he believed the most important thing in life was to “put your family first”. “It’s incredible how many people make bad life choices for their career,” he explained. “You can always get another job. You can’t get another family.”
9. He’s raised his kids to be globetrotters
Jope, who’s married with three children, has spent several decades flitting between America, Asia, and Europe. Although some kids might crumble under the pressure of changing country almost as often as they change their underwear, Jope’s family has thrived under the unusual set-up – much to Jope’s fatherly pride. “We have raised three kids who are global citizens and digital natives,” he boasts on LinkedIn, adding that his children are “an inspiration for me and a hint of what the future holds”.
10. He loves football
If you can’t find Jope in the office, he’s likely to be down the park kicking a ball around. A huge soccer fan, he never misses a Friday night kickabout with his buddies, even if it means missing a business call as a result.