Hire Wire Aug 04 2011

Who Will Be the New Kraft King?

By chris prentice

Kraft Foods Inc.'s announced intent to split into two publicly traded companies opens up at least one spot for a new chief executive.

The snack and grocery food enterprise said it will divide into a global snacks company and a North American grocery purveyor. While it didn't spell out new management roles, it's likely that Irene Rosenfeld, the current CEO and chairman, will lead the $32 billion snacks business, said Eric Larson, a Minneapolis-based analyst at Ticonderoga Securities LLC.

That leaves the role of running the $16 billion grocery business up for grabs.

The global snacks business includes fast-growing products such as Cadbury chocolates, Oreo cookies and Trident gum. Rosenfeld, who has been chief of Kraft s ince June 2006, doggedly pursued last year's acquisition of the Cadbury business despite initial opposition from Warren Buffett, whose conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway owns about 6% of Kraft and is one of its major shareholders.

Rosenfeld told Dow Jones that she had been planning the split s ince 2007 when she began expanding the company's overseas business via the acquisition of LU Biscuits brand from Paris-based dairy company Danone SA.

W. Anthony Vernon, executive vice president and president of North America, currently oversees the company's $24 billion snacks and grocery business in the U.S. and Canada, according to the company website. He joined Kraft in August 2009. Prior to that, Vernon was a health care industry partner at private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings and had a 23-year-long career with Johnson & Johnson.

Michael Osanloo is currently president of the grocery business unit in North America. Osanloo started at Kraft as a strategic planner in April 2008 and took his current role in October 2010. He joined Kraft from Harrah's Entertainment Inc.

Kraft spokesman Michael Mitchell said the company did not have any comment on whether either Osanloo or Vernon are candidates to run the new grocery business or whether Rosenfeld would focus on snacks. Kraft will make announcements about management "in due course," he said.

Kraft said it expects to complete the spin-off before the end of 2012. The company was advised by Centerview Partners, Evercore Partners and Goldman Sachs. Evercore declined to comment. Centerview Partners and Goldman Sachs did not respond to requests for comment.

Write to Chris Prentice

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