CINCINNATI — The abrupt resignation of Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G) president and chief executive officer Robert McDonald late last month seems to many to have been a reaction to pressure from one of the company’s largest shareholders upset with the poor performance of P&G’s stock.
Analysts and those close to the company’s situation say McDonald’s resignation and the surprise return of his predecessor A.G. Lafley to head the company is directly related to ongoing criticism from hedge fund manager William Ackman, whose Pershing Square Capital holds nearly 28 million shares, or more than $2 billion worth, of P&G stock.
In a presentation at an investors conference early last month Ackman said that he felt McDonald had been distracted by outside commitments, including seats on other organizations’ boards. While acknowledging that P&G’s performance was improving, he said that if there was not enough improvement by the end of June, the company’s board should replace McDonald.
“As we’ve said all along, we have confidence in the board of Procter & Gamble to do the right thing for the company and the shareholders,” Ackman told the New York Times on the day McDonald resigned.
The 59-year-old McDonald joined P&G in 1980, becoming president and chief executive officer after Lafley retired in 2009.
“It has been a privilege to work with the people of Procter & Gamble to serve consumers around the world,” he said in a statement. “I’m proud of what we have accomplished together, and I am confident in the company’s future.”
In a memo to vendors, McDonald said he was stepping down out of concern the spotlight on him was detracting from the company.
“When we get to a point where too much attention becomes a distraction, it’s time to change that dynamic,” he wrote.
Lafley will retake the helm at P&G on June 30. Board members say they are confident that he will revive the company’s fortunes.
“A.G.’s track record and his depth of experience at P&G make him uniquely qualified to lead the company forward at this important time,” presiding director Jim McNerney said. “The board expects A.G. to further improve results, implement the current productivity plan and facilitate an ongoing succession process. The board is confident that he will continue improving P&G’s performance.”
McNerney also praised McDonald for his efforts over the past four years.
“We thank Bob for his service and note the company’s improving business performance,” he said. “Under his leadership, the company expanded its business in developing markets, built a strong innovation pipeline, and has made substantial progress implementing a $10 billion cost savings and productivity program.”
In addition to taking over as president and CEO, the 65-year-old Lafley will assume the chairmanship of P&G’s board.
When he left the company in 2009 Lafley had been with P&G for 32 years, the last nine as president and CEO.
“I am looking forward to working with P&G’s outstanding leadership team to continue to improve the company’s performance,” he said in a statement. “I am confident that we will deliver strong innovation, productivity and growth to win with consumers, customers and shareholders.”
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