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Chanel appoints Unilever executive Leena Nair as CEO

Jeremy Lim
14 December 2021

French luxury group Chanel has named Unilever executive Leena Nair as its new London-based global chief executive.

Nair, 52, will take up the post in January 2022, with Chanel co-owner Alain Wertheimer, who currently holds the title moving on to the role of global executive chair.

Nair will join the luxury group from Unilever, where she is currently serving as the global consumer goods company’s chief human resources officer (CHRO), and has been a member of the executive committee since 2016.

She is also a non-executive member of British Telecom, a member of the Board of the Leverhulme Trust, and was a non-executive director on the U.K. Government’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy department.

According to the group, the new appointment will further ensure its "long-term success as a private company, believing in the freedom of creation, cultivating human potential and acting to have a positive impact in the world".

The appointment of Nair, an Indian national, marks the rare occasion an outsider has been named at the helm of the tightly controlled family fashion house, known for its tweed suits, quilted handbags and No. 5 perfume. She follows US businesswoman Maureen Chiquet, who came from a fashion background and was CEO of Chanel for nine years until 2016. Chiquet is now on the board of British luxury fashion retailer MATCHESFASHION.

Unilever CEO Alan Jope credited Nair, who is Unilever's first female and youngest-ever CHRO, for her role in building the organisation, which is now the employer of choice in over 50 countries globally.

Jope said in an official statement: "I would like to thank Leena for her outstanding contribution over the last three decades. Leena has been a pioneer throughout her career at Unilever, but no more so than in her role as CHRO, where she has been a driving force on our equity, diversity and inclusion agenda, on the transformation of our leadership development, and our preparedness for the future of work.

"I am also especially grateful for her leadership over the last two years, and how our HR teams have helped Unilever manage through the many challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic with great care, compassion and professionalism. On behalf of everyone at Unilever, I wish Leena every success in this very exciting new role."

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