Unilever, the firm responsible for such brands as Persil and Dove, has commenced its search for a new chief executive following news that current CEO Patrick Cescau is to step down.
Cescau has held the position for the past five years and intends to leave in May 2009.
Unilever has employed headhunter Egon Zehnder to help in the task. External candidates will be considered, although it is likely a successor will be chosen from within the company.
There are currently four main contenders for the title: Jim Lawrence, who has been finance director at Unilever for the past year; Mike Polk, head of the North American division; Vindi Banga, president for foods, home and personal care; and Harish Manwani, chairman of Hindustan Unilever.