Shock departure of Reckitt Benckiser CEO hits shares in consumer product giant


he shock departure of Reckitt Benckiser’s well-regarded chief executive after just three years in the job has hit shares in the maker of household-name products from Cillit Bang to Nurofen.

Laxman Narasimhan is stepping down from the FTSE 100 multinational citing family reasons and “an opportunity” to return to his native US, which City observers interpreted as a sign he could be headed for a new job on the other side of the Atlantic.

He joined the Slough-based firm after being poached from PepsiCo, the world-famous American soft drinks giant. Reckitt’s stock fell over 4% after the news, to 6370p. It is the UK’s eleventh biggest company by market value, with shares in issue worth over £47 billion.

Narasimhan said his departure comes after he was offered “an opportunity to return to the United States,” adding: “Although it is difficult to leave, it is the right decision for me and my family.”

He is already on the board of Verizon Communications, a seat he has filled since July 2021.

His total pay and pension package at Reckitt for 2021 was worth around £6 million.  He was paid a “golden hello” of £7.5 million in shares and cash when he joined the maker of Gaviscon and Strepsils in 2019 and had an annual salary of £950,000.

Reckitt said its current senior independent director, Nicandro Durante, would become CEO while the board looks for what it called a “long term” replacement. It is not Durante’s first time running a FTSE 100 company, he was the CEO of British American Tobacco for eight years until 2019. He has been on Reckitt’s board since 2013 and said he was looking forward to “continuing the momentum” of the company’s “transformation agenda”.

Narasimhan added: “ I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to lead Reckitt.  It is a great Company with an incredible team and I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished together.”

Chris Sinclair, Reckitt’s chairman, said: “I want to thank Laxman for leading the organization through a significant transformation over the last three years.  We wish him and his family all the very best as he fulfils his desire to return to the United States.

“I have no doubt that Nicandro Durante will provide the leadership needed for Reckitt at this important stage of transformation while we find the right long-term leader for the business.”

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