With a little over six months to go until Unilever CEO Alan Jope departs the consumer goods giant, finance chief Graeme Pitkethly has announced his retirement.

Pitkethly is due to leave the London-listed business by the end of May next year, the Hellmann’s mayonnaise owner revealed today (30 May). He joined Unilever in 2002 before becoming CFO in 2015.

He has held a number of positions within the company during his tenure, including executive vice president and general manager of Unilever UK and Ireland, senior vice president of finance for global markets, global head of M&A and chief financial officer of the Indonesia division.

Unilever said it will now initiate an internal and external search for Pitkethly’s successor.

Jope, who announced his retirement as Unilever CEO last September after three decades with the business, heading up the Knorr’s soup maker since 2019, said Pitkethly “has brought great leadership to our company and [has] been instrumental in sharpening our strategy and driving a step-up in our operational performance”.

He thanked the departing CFO for his 21-year contribution to the company.

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Unilever chairman Nils Andersen added: “On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Graeme for his service to Unilever, and wish him well for the future. He has been a highly-valued member of the board throughout the last eight years, and a strong and dynamic leader of our business.”

Hein Schumacher is set to replace Jope as CEO commencing in July, joining Unilever from Dutch dairy major FrieslandCampina.

Martin Deboo, an equity analyst at investment bank Jefferies, wrote today: “The change of CFO is not entirely surprising given that a new CEO is taking the reins from July. With these exits, Hein Schumacher can begin to reshape Unilever’s leadership executive for the future.”

Pitkethly has steered Unilever’s finances through Covid, the supply chain challenges, its controversial presence in Russia in the wake of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 an,d more recently, the unprecedented inflationary environment.

Discussing first-quarter results in April, Pitkethly indicated Unilever still has more work to do in recovering inflation, with more price increases planned in Europe.

The Marmite brand owner hiked prices by 10.7% in the opening three months of its fiscal year, compared to a 13.3% increase in the fourth quarter. Turnover rose 7% to €14.8bn ($15.8bn), with underlying sales growth up 10.5%. Volumes, however, dropped 0.2%.

Unilever’s share price was down 1.8% at 4,095.20 pence as of 10:52am BST in London today.