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Investment

Cramer: What Procter & Gamble can learn from Estee Lauder, Clorox and Unilever

CNBC’s Jim Cramer is hoping to see strategic changes made at Procter & Gamble after the consumer foods giant narrowly won a proxy fight with activist investor Nelson Peltz.

“Why not expect some change?” the “Mad Money” host said. “Nearly half the shareholders who voted agreed with Peltz that Procter is too insular and not innovative enough when it comes to developing smaller new brands into larger established ones. That’s what Peltz was pushing for in a nutshell.”

Considering the millions of dollars Procter & Gamble spent to fight Peltz over the investor’s desired board seat, Cramer thought it fair to expect change, particularly because the company won the vote by such a small margin.

It’s probably in Procter & Gamble’s interests to incite some sort of change, the “Mad Money” host said, pointing to the weakness among consumer packaged goods stocks.

Only three exceptions exist — Estee Lauder, Clorox and Unilever — and all three have stark similarities.

“What do those three winners have in common? They’re all run by executives who used to work at Procter & Gamble, all of them born elsewhere, all of them with tremendous command of multiple international markets,” Cramer said.

Estee Lauder is led by Fabrizio Freda. Before taking the role of president and CEO in 2009, the Naples-born executive spent 20 years at Procter & Gamble with global leadership roles in snacks, health and beauty.

Under Freda’s leadership, Estee Lauder’s stock has run from $16 to $109 a share as the company expanded, introduced new products and pushed into international markets.

“Freda’s chief stamp? Innovation. Estee Lauder develops new, exciting cosmetics faster than any smaller competitor could,” Cramer said. “Freda knows all of his international markets well, he understands what the local people want, what sells, and where the markets are going like no one else in this industry.”

Clorox CEO Benno Dorer spent 14 years in Procter & Gamble’s marketing division for Glad products. Ranked the most “beloved” CEO in the United States by Glassdoor, the German-born executive took the helm of Clorox in 2014.

Since then, Clorox shares have climbed to $130 from $97 thanks to organic growth, a digital advertising push and, in Dorer’s view, the strategic placement of Clorox’s headquarters.

“We think that being based in the San Francisco Bay Area is a source of competitive advantage because the consumer, and also retail, is shifting online and we are able to build a lot of partnerships with Bay Area-based companies that help us engage consumers online and help us sell online,” Dorer told Cramer in an interview on Oct. 5.

Then there’s Paul Polman, the Dutch CEO of Unilever. After 27 years at Procter & Gamble and three years at Nestle, Polman came to Unilever in 2009 when the company’s stock was at $20.

Now, Unilever shares trade at $59, which Cramer attributed to Polman’s push into international and emerging markets and other strategies that have posed challenges to Procter & Gamble.

“He’s embraced the strategy of buying small brands and then blowing them out in a big way. For example, he purchased Dollar Shave Club for a billion smackers last year. He kept the iconic CEO Mike Dubin,” Cramer said. “It’s the first serious challenge to Gillette in that venerable brand’s history. I can’t see Dubin fitting in anywhere at Procter & Gamble.”

That said, Cramer acknowledged that Procter & Gamble’s stock has not really suffered. Investors who bought the stock for its dividend and reinvested their earnings “did just fine,” he said.

But the international leaders of Procter & Gamble’s rivals have brought a wealth of knowledge to their respective companies, something Cramer hopes Procter & Gamble can emulate.

“So let’s see if [Procter & Gamble CEO David] Taylor heeds Peltz’s call to bring in more outsiders. Let’s see if the board understands what that vote really meant. If not, guess what? The stocks of Clorox, Estee Lauder and Unilever remain the better buys because of tremendous innovation, fabulous international growth and a lot of organic new products,” the “Mad Money” host said.

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Cramer: What Procter & Gamble can learn from Estee Lauder, Clorox and Unilever

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