McCain Foods CEO Dirk Van de Put will become the new CEO of Mondelēz International, with Irene Rosenfeld saying she will leave the company after 11 years in charge.
Rosenfeld, who was first CEO of Kraft Foods before taking over at spin-off Mondelēz, had been under pressure from investors to step aside for several months.
She will leave her role as CEO in November, staying on as chairman until the end of March.
Reports suggested that Mondelēz had begun the process of finding a replacement over three months ago. Rosenfeld had only overseen one major acquisition since Mondelēz was formed – its 2014 merger with coffee company Jacobs Douwe Egberts – and a $23 billion play for Hershey failed in July.
Mondelēz – like many food companies – has instead focused on consolidating its losses through aggressive cost-cutting measures and chasing growth, where it can, through innovation. But the snack giant has seen net revenue fall from $35.3 billion in 2013 to $26 billion last year, and it has lost $1 billion off the value of its biscuits division – its largest category – in the same time.
Mondelēz chairman and CEO Irene Rosenfeld said: “I am very proud of what our 90,000 colleagues at Mondelēz International have accomplished. Throughout my tenure as CEO, the world and our industry have undergone a period of unprecedented change. During that time, we anticipated emerging challenges, adapted accordingly and created significant value for our shareholders.
“The outlook is bright for this great company – one of the few that has consistently delivered on both the top and bottom lines, while making critical investments for future growth.”
The move means that Indra Nooyi is the only female CEO at any of the world’s 25 largest food and beverage companies. There are rumours that Ramon Laguarta – promoted to the role of president last month – is being lined up to replace her.
Rosenfeld has been with Mondelēz since it was spun off from Kraft Foods in 2012 – and was earlier Kraft CEO.
Analysis: ‘End of Rosenfeld’s tenure’
The speculation appears to be have been correct: it looks as though Mondelēz was indeed looking for a replacement for Irene Rosenfeld back in April, as was reported at the time. For a while now, investors have been calling for Rosenfeld to step aside amid unrest at the kinds of returns they were receiving. Nearly $10 billion has been wiped from the company’s net revenue in the last four years; a merger with Jacobs Douwe Egberts three years ago came off, but an ambitious move for Hershey didn’t, and Rosenfeld’s attempts to arrest Mondelēz’s decline have proven challenging.
It hasn’t been an easy year for Mondelēz; that may go some way to explaining the timing of this announcement. Second-quarter revenue was down 5%, and it flopped in the final quarter of last year too. The company had already warned that a cyber attack at the end of June, which affected Mondelēz’s operations in several countries, would impact these latest results.
Nonetheless, Rosenfeld’s departure – though not unthinkable – is still significant. She has been head of Kraft Foods and then Mondelēz for 11 years; her tenure is older than Mondelēz itself. But the recent downward trend, driven by market challenges in the wider packaged goods industry and prompted by volume decline in developed markets, has left the company itching for change. It will now fall to Van de Put – previously of confectionery rival Mars – to overturn a substantial slump in the business’ sales.
Van de Put brings nearly 30 years of experience in the food and consumer goods industry. During six years as head of frozen food company McCain, he oversaw 50% growth in net sales and steered the company to double-digit EBITDA growth, Mondelēz said.
He had previously held executive positions with Novartis, Danone, Coca-Cola and Mars.
“The board and I are confident that Dirk Van de Put is the right leader to take us forward,” Rosenfeld added. “He is a seasoned global CEO, having lived and worked on three different continents, with deep experience and expertise in all critical business and commercial operations in both emerging and developed markets.
Dirk Van de Put joins Mondelēz from McCain Foods.
“Throughout his career, Dirk has had a proven track record of driving top-line and category growth, while at the same time improving cost structures and profitability. And he has achieved these results with a values-based leadership style and steadfast focus on people.”
Van de Put will be replaced as CEO of McCain Foods by chief financial officer Max Koeune.
The change in leadership was announced at the same time as Mondelēz reported its second-quarter results, which showed a 5% decline in net revenue.
Mondelēz director Mark Ketchum added: “On behalf of the entire Mondelēz International board, we want to welcome Dirk and are excited to begin working with him to lead the company through its next chapter of growth. Our thorough, multi-year succession process has identified Dirk as the right leader with a distinct combination of skills and industry experience necessary to succeed as our next CEO. Our process was global in nature and thoroughly considered numerous highly talented internal and external candidates before making our final decision.
“We also want to thank Irene for the vision and leadership she brought to building this great company. Over the past decade, she changed the face, footprint and growth prospects of Kraft Foods and then created Mondelēz International, by reinvigorating the company’s iconic brands, transforming the portfolio, strengthening the company’s presence in emerging markets and aggressively improving margins. Under her stewardship, Mondelēz International has become the leading global snacking company, delivering tremendous value to shareholders. We are extremely grateful for her leadership and for agreeing to stay on as chairman through the first quarter of next year, to ensure a smooth and seamless transition.”
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