March 14, 2019 / 11:08 PM / in a year

Newell Brands CEO Polk to retire

(Reuters) - Newell Brands Inc said Chief Executive Officer Michael Polk would retire at the end of the second quarter, ending a tenure during which the U.S. household goods maker was the target of activist investors and launched a turnaround to slim down its brand portfolio.

Polk, 57, who has been at the helm of the company since 2011, engineered Newell’s $15 billion acquisition of Coleman products maker Jarden Corp in 2016, adding about 120 brands and more than doubling the company’s size.

However, Newell, which owns everything from Elmer’s glue, and Crock Pot cooker to Yankee candles, came under pressure from activist investor Starboard Value LP over the purchase.

Starboard said the company’s management had made missteps in integrating and operating Jarden, and along with former Jarden executives made a bid to replace Newell’s board and oust Polk. Fellow activist investor Carl Icahn also picked up a stake in the company and sought board representation.

Newell last year settled with Starboard and Icahn, agreeing to give them board seats and to accelerate its turnaround program by raising its asset sales target to about $10 billion from $6 billion.

“With the Accelerated Transformation Plan largely complete and the business beginning to turn, I believe now is the right time to transition to the next generation of leadership,” Polk said in a statement.

Newell is coming off a year of disappointing sales. In February, the company forecast lower-than-expected sales and profit due for its financial year 2019, blaming a stronger dollar, higher costs and sluggish sales of its Graco baby products in the aftermath of the liquidation of Toys ‘R’ Us.

The company’s shares have lost about 46 percent of their value in the past 12 months.

Newell said on Thursday it has started a search for the next CEO and has hired global executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles to assist in the process.

Reporting by Soundarya J in Bengaluru; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila

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