Bart Becht, the highest-paid CEO in the FTSE 100, shocked the City this morning by saying that he’s stepping down from his post at the helm of Reckitt Benckiser. Shares in the company promptly plunged by 7.5%, wiping over £1.5bn off its value – a clear sign of how highly the long-serving Reckitt boss is rated. His appointed successor Rakesh Kapoor may have excellent credentials – he currently oversees RB’s innovation efforts – but it’s no wonder investors are nervous…
While the £92m pay packet he took home in 2009 might have made him a household name for all the wrong reasons, Becht’s impressive track record has also led to him being recognised as one of the top CEOs around. Since RB’s formation in 1999, following a merger between Dutch company Benckiser and British firm Reckitt & Colman, Becht has taken its share price from 600p to more than £30 in just over a decade (OK, so he also brought us shouty Cillit Bang man Barry Scott, but you can't have everything). Much of this was apparently down to Becht’s hands-on approach: he once admitted he regularly stopped shoppers to ask them about their cleaning habits, and is rumoured to scrub the floors of his own (presumably rather palatial) house.
Of course, it’s better for your CEO to quit of his own accord as opposed to being forced out (and who can blame Becht – it’s not like he needs the money any more). But the City doesn't like surprises; it makes people wonder (perhaps unnecessarily) if there's more to this than meets the eye.
Still, new boss-elect Rakesh Kapoor seems an eminently sensible choice to follow in Becht's footsteps. Currently the executive vice-president of global category development - which covers RB's innovation, and its 19 top 'Powerbrands' - he’s been at the company for 25 years, so he knows it inside-out. Company chairman Adrian Bellamy says Kapoor was the ‘unanimous choice’ of the board, having played a vital role in the acquisition of Boots Healthcare International in 2006, as well as its takeover of SSL, the Durex condom manufacturer.
Nevertheless, those are some fairly hefty shoes to fill. We’d recommend Kapoor uses lashings of Scholl heel balm in preparation.