Kraft Foods Announces Management Shake Up

CHICAGO (Chicago Tribune/TNS) -

Kraft Foods Group said Thursday some of its top leaders under its former CEO are leaving, paving the way for the food maker to start fresh under Chairman and CEO John Cahill.

The executive changes are the first big change from the Chicago-area company since Cahill, who already was serving as chairman, replaced Tony Vernon as CEO in December. The maker of Kraft cheese, Oscar Mayer meats and Planters nuts has vowed to speed up changes after months of poor results.

“While there were some positive developments in the fourth quarter, we did not deliver to our potential in 2014, with the macro environment and our execution affecting our results,” Cahill said in his first quarterly statement as Kraft’s CEO.

Chief Marketing Officer Deanie Elsner and Chief Financial Officer Teri List-Stoll will leave Kraft at the end of February. Chuck Davis, executive vice president of research, development, quality and innovation, is set to leave Kraft once his successor is named.

Jane Hilk, the company’s president of enhancers and snack nuts, was appointed interim CMO. Until it has a new CFO, Kraft’s finance team will report directly to Cahill.

The company also named George Zoghbi chief operating officer. Zoghbi is currently its vice chairman of operations, research and development, sales and strategy.

Chris Kempczinski, who runs Kraft’s Canada unit, got an expanded role as executive vice president of growth initiatives and president of international. Kempczinski, in his newly created role, will work closely with Zoghbi, including on mergers and acquisitions, Kraft said.

Zoghbi and Kempczinski begin their new roles immediately and report to Cahill.

Also Thursday, Kraft reported that it lost $398 million, or 68 cents per share, in the fourth quarter, after earning $931 million, or $1.54 per share, a year earlier. Excluding a variety of factors, Kraft said it earned more than Wall Street had anticipated.

Fourth-quarter sales rose 2.2 percent to $4.7 billion, topping analysts’ forecast of $4.63 billion. Sales rose in cheese and refrigerated meals, the company’s largest businesses, but fell across most of its other categories.