Kraft CEO Steps Down Amid Stagnant Sales

Tony Vernon Will Retire on Dec. 27

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Kraft Foods Group, the maker of Velveeta and Philadelphia Cream Cheese, said Chief Executive Officer Tony Vernon is stepping down this month and will be succeeded in the role by Chairman John Cahill.

Mr. Vernon will retire on Dec. 27, the last day of Kraft's fiscal year, the Northfield, Illinois-based company said today in a statement. Vernon will remain an adviser through March and stay on as a board member until the next annual meeting in 2015.

Mr. Vernon, 58, shepherded Kraft through its first two years as an independent company, following its split with Mondelez International in October 2012. Mr. Vernon was a big fan of advertising, often calling out his favorite campaigns on earnings calls and during investor presentations.

In a report to investors today, Sanford C. Bernstein said, "Mr. John Cahill is likely to be a more operationally-focused CEO, potentially focused on more deal-making."

But while Kraft has a stable of household brands, it has struggled to maintain growth. Sales are projected to be little changed this year while profit shrinks 31%, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

"With the company on solid footing after the spinoff, the time is right for new leadership to fulfill our potential as the industry leader," Mackey J. McDonld, the lead independent director on Kraft's board, said in the statement. "The board and Tony agree that we need to accelerate the pace of change."

In November, Kraft consolidated its roster of creative agencies, assigning its key brands to Leo Burnett, McGarryBowen, Taxi and CP&B.

~ Bloomberg News with Ad Age staff ~

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