The Gucci Group nominated a longtime Unilever executive Wednesday as its new president and CEO, ending months of speculation over the future of the world's third-largest luxury-goods conglomerate.

Robert Polet, most recently president of Unilever's worldwide ice cream and frozen foods division, succeeds Domenico de Sole, who is leaving Gucci at the end of the month.

"This is a new era for Gucci Group," said Serge Weinberg, chairman of the French parent company Pinault-Printemps-Redoute.

De Sole and star designer Tom Ford, credited with rescuing Gucci from near-bankruptcy a decade ago, announced their resignations in November after they failed to agree on contract terms with the parent company.

Speculation had mounted in recent months over who would succeed them. The company announced last month that four in-house designers were taking Ford's place.

Polet's appointment will be confirmed at a shareholders' meeting to be scheduled in the coming weeks, the company said. Polet also will become a member of the management board of Pinault-Printemps-Redoute.

Polet, 48, said he was "honored and excited."

"The different brands within Gucci Group are iconic names in the world of fashion and luxury goods," he said. "I consider it a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be entrusted with their development."

Polet joins Gucci Group after 26 years at Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch consumer goods maker.

Pascale Nachtergaele, an analyst for Delta Lloyd Securities in Antwerp, said she was surprised that Gucci had appointed someone from outside the fashion sector.

"It seems it might not have been that easy to find someone to succeed Domenico de Sole. He had a very good reputation, and replacing him will be a big challenge," Nachtergaele said.