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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Newell Rubbermaid Board Member Works For Unilever: How Does That Play Into Takeover Rumors?

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- As Wall Street ponders published rumors that Procter & Gamble is interested in buying Newell-Rubbermaid, one member of Newell's board of directors is wearing an interesting second hat. He is a top exec with P&G's global archrival. Michael Polk's second hat is that of Unilever PLC. Polk (see photo) is president of the London-based consumer goods conglomerate's $18 billion Americas unit, meaning he has profit-and-loss responsibility for Unilever's business in North and South America. The biggest thorn in his side? Probably Procter & Gamble of Cincinnati. As TheFlyOnTheWall reported in an unsourced piece last week, the P&G and Newell boards are reportedly talking buyout. If that's the case, is Polk sitting in on those talks? Insider-trading laws would prohibit him from tipping off his bosses at Unilever about a P&G purchase of Newell at, say, $21 a share, or a 50 percent premium over Newell's current stock price. Tempting as it might be to curry favor with his superiors, Polk would no doubt keep his lips zipped. Or maybe he's recused himself. Or just leaves the room. Or maybe there aren't any talks. But you can see P&G and Unilever squaring off every day on the shelves of Wal-Mart, Target and Kroger. Among Unilever's many brands are Dove, Suave, Q-Tips, Vaseline, Snuggle, Pond's and CloseUp. There don't appear to be any rumors that Unilever is interested in Newell Rubbermaid, whose board of directors is listed here. If anybody wants to share anything about a P&G marriage with Newell, please get in touch. Give us some insight. This is what Polk's bio looks like (from the Newell website):

Michael B. Polk
Elected 2009
Michael B. Polk is President of Unilever Americas with responsibility for $18 billion in combined North America and Latin America sales. Since joining Unilever in 2005, Mr. Polk has streamlined the company's Americas organization and optimized the diverse mix of food, hygiene and personal care items in Unilever's product portfolio. He is credited with accelerating growth and profitability by improving efficiencies and encouraging the flow of ideas and product innovations across borders. Under Mr. Polk's leadership, Unilever was named Wal-Mart's Supplier of the Year in 2008. Before Unilever, Mr. Polk held positions of increasing global responsibility during 18 years at Altria Group, culminating in the role of Group Vice President and President, Nabisco Biscuit & Snacks with a $5.5 billion portfolio of brands. He was responsible for the integration of Nabisco into Kraft Foods, which required merging Nabisco's in-store merchandising system, leveraging Kraft's branding power and restructuring manufacturing operations. While at Altria he also led Kraft's Asia/Pacific Region and Kraft's U.S. Post Cereal Division.Mr. Polk began his career at Procter & Gamble in industrial engineering and product development. He is a board member of the Retail Industry Leadership Association, and has been named to Business Week magazine's "CEOs of Tomorrow" list and the "Power 50" list in Supermarket News. A graduate of Cornell University, he also holds an MBA from Harvard University

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