A Lifelong Passion for the Consumer Goods Industry
Bart Becht, ’82, Distinguished Corporate Alumni Award
Image by Matthew Gilson
For more than a decade, Becht served as chief executive officer of the British household-products company Reckitt Benckiser, which, under his leadership, saw sustained growth in both profits and stock price.
A native of The Netherlands, Becht earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Groningen before coming to Chicago Booth to specialize in finance in the early 1980s. As a student, he interned at Procter & Gamble, then joined the company in 1982. From there, he went on to become vice president of marketing in the US for what was then Benckiser, a small but fast-growing European consumer-products company. He quickly rose through the ranks, becoming general manager of Benckiser Canada, UK, France, and Italy. In 1995, Becht was appointed CEO of Benckiser Household Products Division, which he successfully took public in 1997.
A 1999 merger with Britain’s Reckitt & Colman Plc created a powerhouse consumer-products company, with Becht named as its CEO. Under his leadership, the company sold off noncore businesses to focus on its “Powerbrands,” including Lysol, Finish, Air Wick, and Mucinex, in categories with strong growth potential. His marketing strategy has been to support these brands with significant advertising and marketing campaigns to help drive category penetration and market share. In 2009, the company’s 17 Powerbrands accounted for 70 percent of global net revenues. Since then, Reckitt Benckiser has added two more Powerbrands, Scholl and Durex.
Becht is known for fostering a highly entrepreneurial and multinational corporate culture as a way to generate new ideas and innovative products to ensure consistent above-industry-average growth. He measures success in innovation not through his company’s R&D spending,but through the percentage of net revenues from new products. This percentage has consistently been among the highest in the industry, hovering between 30 and 40 percent during the last decade.
This past fall, Becht retired as CEO of Reckitt Benckiser. He plans to pursue business investments and become more involved with his charitable trust, which is focused on humanitarian aid. Becht’s successful leadership and impressive track record as an executive have earned him the 2011 Distinguished Corporate Alumni Award.—E.O, P.W.