The reason for his departure remains unclear, but may stem from an uneasy relationship with Unilever chief executive, and ex-P&G and Nestle man, Paul Polman, to whom Clift reports directly.
Cambridge graduate Clift has spent his entire career at Unilever, which he joined as a management trainee in 1982. He has held senior positions right across the world and covering all Unilever’s categories.
He was Unilever’s first global chief marketing officer, responsible for how Unilever develops and executes marketing across all categories – including worldwide advertising agency policy, market research, media buying, marketing capability, recruitment, training and career development.
He is also a non-executive director of BBC Worldwide.
The news of Clift’s departure broke as Unilever appointed MindShare to about $1.7bn media planning and buying, after a lengthy consolidation review.
UPDATE: Unilever has now confirmed Clift’s departure. Officially he is retiring from the company, in several months’ time.