Meet Leena Nair, Chanel’s New Global CEO

Changing of the guard at Chanel? The privately owned company just named Leena Nair as its new global Chief Executive Officer, effective at the end of January 2022. She replaces Chanel co-owner Alain Wertheimer, who will become global Executive Chair of the company. As you may recall, Wertheimer took the CEO slot in 2016 upon the (what was then deemed a surprise) firing of Maureen Chiquet. By most accounts, Wertheimer’s appointment was to be temporary. And it is now coming to an end.

But really, let’s talk about Nair and what she brings to Chanel. She joins the fashion firm from global consumer goods conglomerate Unilever, where she was Chief Human Resources Officer and a member of the executive committee.  Of Nair, Unilever’s CEO Alan Jope says: 

“Leena has been a pioneer throughout her career at Unilever, but no more so than in her role as CHRO, where she has been a driving force on our equity, diversity and inclusion agenda, on the transformation of our leadership development, and on our preparedness for the future of work. She has played a critical role in building our purpose-led, future-fit organization.” 

And Chanel clearly is looking to Nair for her “progessive and human centered leadership.” It describes her as a “highly respected as a visionary leader whose ability to champion a long-term, purpose-driven agenda is matched with a consistently strong record of business outcomes.”

Leena Nair, photo courtesy WWD

No doubt this is one talented and accomplished woman. C-Suite experience. Check. Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion. Check. Fashion experience. Not really. So it will be interesting to see whether and how that affects Chanel. On the other hand, she does bring experience with publicly-owned companies (which Chanel is not), raising the question of whether that is part of Chanel’s future.