- Chief legal officer: Ritva Sotamaa.
- Team headcount: 500 (including support staff).
Ritva Sotamaa has served as the chief legal officer of Unilever since 2013 and spent most of her career in the healthcare industry prior to that. She was global GC for Siemens Healthcare from 2009 to 2013 and prior to this held several GC roles at GE Healthcare.
Under Sotamaa, the legal team has taken strides to improve its relations with external advisers, and kicked off its first formal panel review in March 2014. Led by operations legal director Saswata Mukherjee, who was assisted by group legal secretary Tonia Lovell and Sotamaa, a total of 16 firms were selected, with work to be divided between four panels, including corporate, IP, general contract commercial and construction, and engineering.
Having taken nearly six months to complete, the team’s objective was to take a more structured approach to working with external advisers, and provide greater flexibility for the business to negotiate fee rates and secondments across multiple jurisdictions.
Praise for the team included a nomination from Diageo GC Siobhan Moriarty, who says: ‘Great things are done within Unilever’s legal function. Sotamaa has come in with a fresh pair of eyes. But she’s said: “How do we think about what we do, why we do it, and how can we structure ourselves differently?” She is definitely working to align the business with the legal team more closely.’
The team’s global and European general counsel – hair, Catherine Stromdale, was also listed as a Rising Star in the 2014 edition of Legal Business’s GC Power List for her strong negotiation and managerial skills.
Others to watch include GC, compliance, Anny Tubbs, who co-chaired an International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) antitrust compliance forum and co-authored the global ICC Antitrust Compliance Toolkit that was launched in 2013. The former Slaughter and May lawyer further designed and co-hosted related launch events, workshops and other initiatives in 2014, bringing together peers and regulators for constructive dialogue on critical success factors for antitrust compliance. The Anglo-Dutch company also underwent a restructuring of the business that involved spinning out its European and North American spreads business – which houses brands such as Flora – into a separate entity, a move which subsequently increased its share price by 3%.