For the first time in four generations, leadership of the Wm Wrigley gum empire has been turned over to someone outside the Wrigley family. Former Nike boss William Perez has been appointed chief executive officer and president.

Bill Wrigley Jr., who had been serving as chairman, president and CEO will continue as chairman of the board and has been elected to the newly created role of executive chairman.

Perez, 59, spent 34 years at cleaning company SC Johnson, serving as president and CEO for eight years. In 2004, he joined Nike, where he held the position of president and CEO until earlier this year.

"Wrigley's brands are known and loved around the world, the company's culture embodies the values of trust, dignity and respect which are important to me, and there's a long-term focus on growth and people development that underlies the company's success as a global leader," Perez said.

"Bill is an exceptionally talented and well-qualified executive who honed his leadership skills in a highly successful, professionally managed family company environment. He is a terrific fit with our company and our culture and he has an impressive track record of building global brands, leading consumer-driven innovation and inspiring employees," Bill Wrigley, Jr. commented.

"Bill comes to us at a time when our business is strong and growing - we have a solid foundation and we are well-positioned for future growth. Our brands are vibrant and we are achieving the goals and aspirations we have set for ourselves in large measure because of a tremendously talented executive leadership team. With our sights set on the next level of growth and opportunity, we've chosen to add to our strengths by bringing Bill Perez to Wrigley as president and CEO," he continued.

In his new role as executive chairman, Bill Wrigley, Jr. will be actively engaged in the development of long-term growth strategies that will drive the company's global leadership position.

"To continue to effectively drive our dynamic and highly competitive global company, I firmly believe this is the right time to divide the top leadership responsibilities between two people, particularly given today's commercial and governance climate," said Bill Wrigley, Jr.

"This approach will enable us to divide and conquer the many responsibilities inherent in running this organisation and further leverage our many competitive advantages to build long-term value for our shareholders. Our entire board of directors wholeheartedly endorsed my recommendation to bring Bill on as CEO and I look forward to sharing a strong working partnership with him."