“I don’t think our duty is to put shareholders first. I say the opposite”.
The Dutchman is convinced that something is rotten:
“Capitalism in its current form is broken... The very essence of capitalism is under threat as business is now seen as a personal wealth accumulator…. if you go back to Adam Smith, his thoughts were that capitalism was intended for the greater good”.
Since Polman's appointment, the Anglo-Dutch company has ended quarterly reporting, refused to pander to analysts, doubled capital spending, increased R&D, reduced the number of hedge funds in its shareholder base by half and, according to its CEO treats people, such as their 75,000 small hold tea farmers, fairly.
Polman’s approach puts him at odds with elite academics like Professor Macey from Yale Law School who teaches that “all major decisions of the corporation, such as compensation policy, new investments, dividend policy, strategic direction and corporate strategy should be made with only the interests of shareholders in mind”.
To his critics, Unilever has an impostor at the helm.
But this CEO is no phony. He's more capitalist than any shareholder activist and he's bringing the magic back .