Unilever boss and predecessors want UK to remain in EU
Niall FitzGerald among those urging company employees to reject Brexit
Niall FitzGerald is among for signatories of the pro-Remain letter sent to Unilever staff and pensioners. Photograph: Aidan Crawley/The Irish Times
Unilever chief executive Paul Polman and his three predecessors, including Niall FitzGerald, have expressed support for Britain remaining in the European Union, saying the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant would be “negatively impacted” by Brexit.
“We therefore hope that in the interests of Unilever, the UK, Europe, and indeed the wider global economy, the UK will choose to remain and thereby continue to play a central role in Unilever’s long-term growth and prosperity,” the executives said in a letter sent on Thursday to some 100,000 UK employees and pensioners of the company.
Britain votes on June 23rd on whether to stay in the 28-member EU, with polls suggesting a tight race.
Engineering group Rolls-Royce on Wednesday joined other big companies, including telecoms group BT and airline Easyjet, in throwing its weight behind the campaign to remain in the bloc.
The Unilever letter is signed by Mr Polman, who is Dutch, as well as Patrick Cescau, Mr FitzGerald and Michael Perry. The four have run the maker of Dove soap, Lipton tea and Knorr soups for the past 24 years.
“We feel a responsibility to point out that Unilever in the UK, with its thriving operating company, international research centres, factories and global headquarters would, in our considered opinion, be negatively impacted if the UK were to leave the European Union,” they added.
Mr Cescau is a Frenchman, while Mr Perry is British.
Chief executive Mr Polman, who has been in the top job since 2009, said in January that a possible Brexit was similar to a messy, costly and ultimately regrettable divorce.
Unilever is the second-biggest company in Britain’s FTSE 100 index with a market value of £91 billion (€81 billion). It has 168,000 employees worldwide, 7,500 of whom are in the UK.