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Reckitt Benckiser boss stuns City as he quits for US role

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Reckitt Benckiser boss Laxman Narasimhan stuns City as he quits for US role after just three years at helm of Dettol maker

Reckitt Benckiser’s boss has turn into the newest to hitch the exodus of FTSE chief executives after he quit yesterday.

Laxman Narasimhan, who has led the buyer goods giant for just three years, stunned the City by announcing he was leaving the UK to take up a post within the US.

Analysts said it was a ‘surprise’ to see the 55-year-old businessman go so soon, when it seemed that his strategy on the Dettol owner was starting to repay, and shares fell 5.2 per cent.

Going west: Reckitt Benckiser boss Laxman Narasimhan, who has led the buyer goods giant for just three years, is leaving the UK to take up a post within the US

For Narasimhan, the choice to maneuver across the Atlantic will mean reuniting along with his family.

The Indian-American executive was formerly based within the US at PepsiCo, before coming to the UK in 2019 to take over at Reckitt.

But this left him isolated from most of his family in the course of the pandemic. During Covid he became the only real carer for his elderly mother, with whom he shared his rented flat in St John’s Wood, north-west London.

The situation left him juggling necessary Zoom calls during lockdowns with answering the door to deliveries of shopping.

While his wife was eventually in a position to join him in London, he was unable to see his daughter – who works in Latest York – for everything of the pandemic.

Now his son can be as a consequence of start university within the States.

Narasimhan said: ‘I actually have been offered a chance to return to america and even though it is difficult to depart, it’s the correct decision for me and my family.’

He declined to comment on the job he was taking on, but it surely is known he’ll hold the position of chief executive at a big US company operating in a distinct sector to Reckitt.

Narasimhan restructured the Slough-based group, selling under-performing businesses resembling its Chinese infant nutrition arm. He has also wrestled with supply chain challenges because the start of Covid-19.

Addressing Narasimhan’s departure, Bruno Monteyne, an analyst at investment bank Bernstein, said: ‘We’re surprised to see him go, given the extent to which investors and the corporate have come to the conclusion that the brand new team’s strategy is paying off.’

Tineke Frikkee, fund manager at Waverton Investment Management, which has a small holding in Reckitt, added: ‘Whilst it’s comprehensible that for family reasons he’s moving back to the US, it’s surprising that it’s immediate, reasonably than serving his notice period.’

Narasimhan’s tenure on the Durex-to-Nurofen business was well below the FTSE 100 average of 5.8 years. 

But there was a spike in departures this yr and his exit is the seventeenth announced by the boss of a blue-chip company to date this yr.

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 herald latest chief executives next yr.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said that spikes in chief executive changes often come when times are getting tough – the years 2000, 2007 and 2020 all saw a flurry of moves.

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