Reckitt Benckiser boss Laxman Narasimhan stuns City as he steps down after just 3 years at the helm of Dettol US maker
Reckitt Benckiser boss is the latest to join the exodus of FTSE chiefs after resigning yesterday.
Laxman Narasimhan, who ran the consumer goods giant for just three years, stunned the city by announcing he was leaving the UK to take up a post in the US.
Analysts said it was a “surprise” to see the 55-year-old businessman leave so early, as his strategy appeared to be paying off at Dettol’s owner, with shares falling 5.2 percent.
Going West: Reckitt Benckiser boss Laxman Narasimhan, who has led the consumer goods giant for just three years, is leaving the UK to work in the US
For Narasimhan, the decision to move across the Atlantic means reuniting with his family.
The Indian-American executive previously worked at PepsiCo in the US before coming to the UK to take over Reckitt in 2019.
However, this left him isolated from most of his family during the pandemic. During Covid, he became the sole carer of his elderly mother, with whom he shared his rented flat in St John’s Wood, north west London.
The situation meant he had to juggle important Zoom calls during lockdown with answering the door for grocery deliveries.
While his wife was eventually able to join him in London, he has not been able to see his daughter – who works in New York – throughout the pandemic.
Now his son is also set to study in the United States.
Narasimhan said, “I have been offered the opportunity to return to the United States and while leaving is difficult, it is the right decision for me and my family.”
He declined to comment on the job he was taking, but it is believed he will be chief executive at a major US company operating in a different sector to Reckitt.
Narasimhan restructured the Slough-based group and sold underperforming businesses such as its China infant formula arm. He has also struggled with supply chain challenges since the start of Covid-19.
Commenting on Narasimhan’s departure, Bruno Monteyne, an analyst at investment bank Bernstein, said: “We are surprised that he is leaving given the extent to which investors and the company have concluded that the new team’s strategy is paying off.”
Tineke Frikkee, fund manager at Waverton Investment Management, which holds a small stake in Reckitt, added: “While it is understandable that he is returning to the US for family reasons, it is surprising that this is done immediately rather than to serve his resignation Period.’
Narasimhan’s tenure in the Durex-to-Nurofen business was well short of the FTSE 100 average of 5.8 years.
But there has been a spike in departures this year, and his departure is the 17th announced so far this year by a blue-chip CEO.
Prudential’s Mike Wells, Taylor Wimpey’s Pete Redfern and JD Sports’ Peter Cowgill have already been replaced. And Rolls-Royce, Whitbread and B&M have all announced plans to appoint new chief executives next year.
Russ Mold, an investment director at AJ Bell, said that when times are tough, there are often top shake-ups in board turnover — 2000, 2007 and 2020 all saw a series of moves.