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Rakesh Kapoor becomes global head of Reckitt Benckiser

Rakesh Kapoor Reckitt CEO

Indian-origin Rakesh Kapoor will head the global operations of Reckitt Benckiser Group plc (RB), a £8 billion health care and personal care company.

At a time when major consumer brands are struggling to maintain sales in Europe and the US, Kapoor’s appointment is expected to benefit RB to expand in emerging markets like India, analysts predict.

RB is the global No 1 or No 2 in the majority of its fast-growing categories, with 19 global brands including Finish, Lysol, Dettol, Durex, Calgon, Airwick, Harpic, Mortein, Veet, Nurofen, Clearasil, Strepsils and Scholl.

Kapoor, who grew up in New Delhi, before graduating in chemical engineering from BITS Pilani and MBA from XLRI Jamshedpur, knows the Indian market well.

Starting his career in 1982 with HCL’s Network Ltd, an information technology start up, Kapoor set up a new office which he grew to be the second biggest office with a staff of 25 and was promoted to the strategic business unit head of the company’s services group.

Kapoor joined RB in India in 1987 as regional sales manager Northern India and then performed various roles before becoming General Manager – Southern India in 1994. India at that time was split into four separate businesses. He turned it into the best performing business for the company in India.

However, analysts describe the appointment as a tough act to follow in departing Bart Becht who retires as CEO.

Becht led Reckitt Benckiser since the 1999 merger of Reckitt & Colman and Benckiser NV and recorded double-digit profits growth in eight of the past 10 years of leadership. The 54-year old CEO boosted RB’s market value sixfold.

Those are big boots to fill in. The new CEO is “not going to produce the same kind of growth we’ve seen over the next decade,” market analyst Carl Short of Standard & Poor’s told Bloomberg. “Becht is going to be a very tough act to follow, especially given that we’ve entered much more challenging conditions for consumers in developed markets.”

Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc new CEO, Rakesh Kapoor

Reckitt Benckiser Group Plc has high expectations from its new CEO, Rakesh Kapoor

One analyst at Espirito Santo in London, James Edwardes Jones, went a step further and said Becht’s departure makes Reckitt Benckiser marginally more likely to be a takeover target .

However, this is not the first time the RB board have shown trust in Kapoor. In 2006, Kapoor was appointed to the Executive Committee of RB in 2006 to lead the two key drivers of RB’s continued above industry-average growth – its global Powerbrand strategies and innovations.

Prior to this Kapoor had a highly successful career in RB, including leading the UK and Northern Europe business to the best financial performance these businesses have ever delivered.

Kapoor has a 25 year career with RB and is currently executive vice president global category development at RB and an Executive Committee member.

He becomes CEO effective 1 September 2011 with Bart Becht staying on as part time adviser to Kapoor and the Board until September 2012 to ensure a smooth transition.

Having led the pan-European and largest health care business in RB, when also leading Northern Europe, he was one of the architects of the Boots Healthcare International acquisition in 2006 which transformed RB into a global consumer health care company.

During his tenure Powerbrands have grown from 57% of RB’s annual net revenue (sales) to 69% in 2010. Over the same period an average of over 30% of net revenue has come from innovations launched in the last 3 years; an industry leading performance. He has been equally involved in the recent SSL and Paras Pharmaceuticals India acquisitions.

RB’s chairman, Adrian Bellamy, is hopeful that Kapoor will live upto his reputation. “His close involvement in the drivers of success at RB and significant achievements to date are reassurance that the excellent performance for which RB has become renowned is set to continue.

“Consistent with its succession plan, the Board was unanimous in its choice of Rakesh as he has the necessary drive, strategic thinking and operational experience coupled with a more than intimate understanding of and capability to improve RB’s financial performance and earnings model. He is supported by an excellent team of senior executives.”

Departing CEO, Becht, too has given his vote of confidence to Kapoor:

“He has an outstanding track record of performance over many years, with broad experience across developing and developed markets, and all categories. I have seen his considerable leadership and commercial skills in operation and he will be a strong leader for RB in the future.”

Kapoor is married with two children and lives in Buckinghamshire, conveniently located for RB’s Slough Head Office and Heathrow Airport. Kapoor is a keen football and cricket follower and is an accomplished Bridge player.

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