Former Group CEO of Unilever
Patrick Cescau was Unilever’s first Group CEO and considered, by many, as the man who restored the company to its former glory and put sustainability and corporate responsibility firmly on Unilever’s agenda.
Born in Paris in 1948, Patrick studied business at ESSEC before embarking on an 18-month voluntary assignment with Volontaire du Service National (VSNA) in Algeria, teaching finance and accounting. Following this adventure, in 1973, he joined Unilever as a consultant. It was here, in pursuing his desire for an international career, Patrick learnt about INSEAD’s unique learning experience with its intense one-year MBA programme, its commitment to diversity and the multi-cultural environment. He was immediately keen to apply.
His INSEAD MBA year provided him “with an enhanced understanding of world issues, of what leadership was all about and the ability to be more adaptive and flexible, how to deal with real business problems and how to solve them as it was not simply about tools and techniques.”
Patrick’s experience at INSEAD also led to his commitment to life-long learning and influenced his vision that global business has a role to play in addressing some of today's biggest social and economic challenges.
To mark Patrick’s retirement from Unilever, this commitment led to INSEAD and Unilever announcing the establishment of ‘The Patrick Cescau/Unilever Endowed Fund for Research in Leadership and Diversity’ in June 2009. This gift is in the form of a named restricted endowment that will exist in perpetuity.
“INSEAD gave me the confidence that I had learnt the relevant skills that would make me successful as an international leader. 35 years, 7 countries (some more than once) and 13 jobs later, I know it was the right choice.” On a personal level, his time at INSEAD also brings back fond memories of studying whilst his wife was expecting their first child.
Patrick’s future ambitions are to spend more time with his family, especially his grandson, to continue to make an active contribution in his roles as a Non-Executive Director of both Pearson and Tesco and a trustee of Leverhulme Trust, whilst continuing to be involved in charity work. He also intends to play an important role on the INSEAD Board. And in addition, he looks forward to celebrating his 35th wedding anniversary this year.
In 2007, Patrick received the prestigious Botwinick Prize in Ethics, from the Columbia Business School and he was awarded the “Légion d’Honneur”, the highest decoration bestowed by France in 2005.