Kraft loses two key executives

Thursday, July 10, 2003

CHICAGO -- Two key executives have left Kraft Foods Inc. in a shakeup that caused the company's stock to drop 4 percent Wednesday.

The world's second-largest food company behind Nestle announced the departures of Irene Rosenfeld, president of Kraft Foods North America since just last October, and Michael Polk, president of the biscuit and snacks group.

Both decided to leave to pursue other opportunities, the company said without elaborating.

Prudential Financial called the departures big losses for Kraft -- particularly that of Rosenfeld, an integral part of Kraft's management team. "We think it raises some concerns about current business trends," particularly with sales, analyst John McMillin said in a note to investors.

Kraft shares fell $1.16 to close at $31.32 on the New York Stock Exchange.

According to Prudential, Polk left to become the No. 2 executive at Unilever's North American food division while Rosenfeld is thought to be looking for another top position in the industry.

Daryl Brewster, 46, formerly vice president of the North American food unit, succeeds Polk as snacks chief. The company said no replacement will be named for Rosenfeld.

Kraft spokeswoman Donna Sitkiewicz said the five business heads who reported to Rosenfeld will now report directly to Betsy Holden, co-CEO of Kraft Foods and president and CEO of Kraft Foods North America -- the unit that generates 80 percent of the company's profits.

Lance Friedmann, 47, will take over Brewster's duties overseeing operations in Canada, Mexico and Puerto Rico and will become a member of the Kraft Foods North America management committee.

The personnel moves come with the food giant rethinking the way it markets its foods amid growing concerns, and potential lawsuits, about obesity. Kraft said last week it plans to change some product recipes, reduce portions in some single-serve packages, quit marketing snacks via giveaways at school and encourage healthier lifestyles in an effort to combat obesity.

Kraft Foods North America's business boasts the world's best-selling cheese brand in Kraft as well as the top cookie and cracker business in Nabisco.

The Northfield, Ill.-based company releases second-quarter earnings next Wednesday. The company made $3.4 billion in profits last year on $29.7 billion in sales.


On the Net:

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: