Heinz Shakes Up Kraft Management Ahead of Buffett-Backed Merger
H.J. Heinz’s leadership is wasting no time shaking up Kraft Foods Group. The companies announced a raft of management changes Monday ahead of their planned merger, which is scheduled to go to a shareholder vote this week. Departures will include Kraft Chief Financial Officer James Kehoe and General Counsel Kim Rucker, according to a statement that named the executive team for the combined company.
Heinz CFO Paulo Basilio will hold the same position at the new Kraft Heinz Co., which will lean heavily on the ketchup maker’s executives to fill the most-senior roles.
“Our new leadership team represents the best of the best in business,” Bernardo Hees, Heinz’s chief executive officer and the future CEO of Kraft Heinz, said in the statement. “I am thrilled that this world-class group of executives will join me to further strengthen our iconic brands.”
The changes echo an overhaul that Hees led at Pittsburgh-based Heinz two years ago after Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and investment firm 3G Capital took over the ketchup maker. Within weeks of that deal’s closing, top executives departed and the new management team went to work cutting employees and costs from corporate headquarters to the factory floor.
The belt-tightening has helped Heinz produce some of the best margins among large U.S. food companies as the industry struggles with slow growth. It also helped justify the combination with Northfield, Illinois-based Kraft, which was engineered by 3G and Berkshire.
When the deal is completed, Eduardo Pelleissone will be executive vice president of global operations; Matt Hill will be zone president for Europe; and Marcos Romaneiro will oversee the Asia Pacific region. All have similar jobs at Heinz.
Bloomberg News, edited by ESM