Belfast Telegraph

New face at Nivea hopes for a smooth path to profit

Stefan Heidenreich, chief executive-designate of Nivea

Soft hands and a blemish-free complexion? We've not met him yet - Mr Heidenreich is serving out his notice at Swiss babyfood manufacturer Hero. Still, he's been hired for his business skills rather than to be the face of the skincare brand.

Good, we didn't like to say, but he does look a little old. He's a youthful 48, in fact. But Nivea's owner, Beiersdorf, which he'll be heading, is in need of some experience.

Why? Is it having problems? Beiersdorf, founded in 1882, has a proud history but has in recent times found itself eclipsed by giant consumer goods conglomerates such as Procter and Gamble and Unilever. Growth has slowed to a crawl and the economic problems aren't helping either.

Time for a change then? That seems to be the view of Germany's Herz family, which is the controlling shareholder. It has hired Mr Heidenreich after losing patience with Thomas Quaas, the current boss, who has been with Beiersdorf for 33 years.

So what are his credentials? He has spent his entire career in the consumer goods sector. He started out at Procter and Gamble, where he ended up managing brands such as Pampers, Ariel and Crest, before moving on to Reckitt Benckiser, whose expansion into Eastern Europe he supervised. He moved to Hero in 1996 and has been in charge for the past nine years.

And what's the plan? He's expected to concentrate on a few core brands, led by Nivea, where there is a great deal of scope for expansion. Analysts reckon the Herz family is giving him two years to get the company moving - if he fails, a sale to rivals is very likely.