Paul Polman, the newly appointed chief executive of Unilever, has shunned London for Switzerland.
The revelation will raise further fears about London’s attractiveness to business. Politicians and business leaders have warned in recent weeks that London’s reputation as a place to do business has been damaged by imminent changes to National Insurance and plans to raise the top level of tax to 50pc.
Mr Polman, a former Nestlé executive, was appointed chief executive of Unilever last year. But rather than relocate to London – where Patrick Cescau, his predecessor, was based – he has decided to remain resident in Switzerland, where his family lives.
Unilever owns Persil, Dove, Magnum, Flora and Marmite. The Anglo-Dutch consumer products group, which is based in London and Rotterdam, is one of the UK’s largest companies, employing tens of thousands of people.
As a non-resident, tax rules bar Mr Polman from spending more than 90 nights a year in the UK. A spokesman for Mr Polman pointed out that he spent much of his time travelling. Unilever has operations in more than 100 countries around the world.
In a speech last year, Mr Polman warned that an oppressive tax regime could deter international businesses from basing themselves in the UK.
“I do hope that the UK Government – of whichever colour after the next election – recognises that, at times like this, it is even more important to create the climate in which businesses can prosper and compete,” he said.
“That won’t be helped in my view by political rhetoric or a tax regime that suppresses consumer spending, penalises entrepreneurship.”