Kraft Taps Two Current Execs to Lead New Companies After Split

Current CEO Irene Rosenfeld Will Take Over Planned Snacks Company

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When Kraft Foods splits next year, the two new companies will be led by a pair of company insiders. CEO and Chairwoman Irene Rosenfeld will take on the same role at the planned global snacks company and Kraft Foods North America Exec VP Tony Vernon will lead the planned North American grocery company, Kraft announced today.

Irene Rosenfeld
Irene Rosenfeld
The appointments of two internal candidates -- which was widely expected -- could signal that the two new companies do not plan to deviate much from Kraft's ongoing aggressive marketing makeover, which has included multiple ad-agency shifts and more aggressive spending.

The food giant will turn to at least one outsider, however, naming John Cahill, an industrial partner with private equity firm Ripplewood Holdings, as non-executive chairman of the grocery company. Mr. Cahill, a former chairman and CEO of Pepsi Bottling Group, will join the company in January to begin working on the separation, initially serving as executive chairman, the company said.

Kraft's plan -- which was announced earlier this year -- would create two publicly traded companies: a $31 billion international snacks business, including Cadbury, Oreo and Trident, and a $17 billion North American grocery business, which will include Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, Oscar Mayer, Jell-O and other non-snack brands. The plan still requires tax approval but is scheduled to be completed at the end of 2012.

Ms. Rosenfeld's appointment is not a surprise because the snack brands have been a priority for her. She led Kraft's acquisition of Cadbury, for instance. "Irene was the obvious choice to lead the global snacks company," Mark Ketchum, lead director of the Kraft Foods board, said in a statement. "As a result of her bold vision, courage to transform Kraft Foods' portfolio and investment in core brands and high-growth developing markets, we are now able to launch two formidable world-class companies." Ms. Rosenfeld, 58, is a 30-year veteran of the food and beverage industry, leading Kraft Foods since 2006.

Mr. Vernon, 55, joined Kraft in 2009 from Ripplewood Holdings, where he served since 2006 as health-care industry partner. Prior to that he spent more than 20 years at Johnson & Johnson, where he led brands such as Tylenol, Motrin, Pepcid AC, Imodium and Splenda. In a recent report, Wall Street analyst Bernstein Research cited Mr. Vernon as a key player in Kraft's recent turn to more aggressive marketing and advertising, which has included multiple ad agency changes. The report also mentioned Mary Beth West, exec VP-chief marketing officer, and Dana Anderson, senior VP-marketing strategy and communications, as key drivers of the new marketing strategy.

Kraft has not said where Ms. Anderson and Ms. West will land in the new structure. Those decisions, along with other key appointments, are expected early next year, a Kraft spokesman said.

The new grocery company will keep the Kraft Foods name, while the name for the snacks company has not been decided.

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