Hershey begins CEO search as Bilbrey announces retirement

Fri Oct 14, 2016 4:52pm EDT
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By Greg Roumeliotis and Lauren Hirsch

(Reuters) - Hershey Co, the U.S. chocolate maker that Oreo cookie-maker Mondelez International Inc tried to acquire earlier this year, said on Friday that Chief Executive John Bilbrey would retire from his post on July 1.

The move comes less than three months after the charitable trust that controls Hershey reached a major reform agreement with its overseer, the Pennsylvania attorney general's office, raising questions about the trust's plans for the company.

The selection of the new CEO could determine not just the company's financial performance, but also whether the trust will continue to rely on Hershey as its main asset. About two-thirds of the trust's $12 billion in assets are in Hershey stock.

During Bilbrey's five-year tenure as CEO, Hershey doubled its market value to $20 billion, improved its profit margins, and increased its market share in the United States to 31.3 percent from 28.3 percent. Hershey also began to diversify beyond its core confectionary business into other types of snacks.

The Kisses chocolate maker said on Friday it appointed a special committee to search for a new CEO. The committee will be led by Pamela Arway, chairwoman of the board's governance committee, helped by executive search firm Egon Zehnder.

The committee is considering internal and external candidates for the CEO job, and Hershey Chief Operating Officer Michele Buck is one of the contenders, according to people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified discussing confidential deliberations.

FAMILY TIME   Continued...

Chief executive officer of Hershey, John P. Bilbrey, smiles as he stands on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York October 31, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson