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SNAPPLE OWNER QUAKER DUMPS BEVERAGE CHIEF

By Published on .

Just three days before launching its make-or-break $40 million promotional campaign for the ailing Snapple brand, Quaker Oats Co. forced out beverage division President Don Uzzi.

So sudden was the shakeup that Quaker CEO William Smithburg, without time to search for Mr. Uzzi's successor, put in place a temporary and highly unusual three-person team to head up Snapple for the remainder of the summer.

UZZI WELL-RESPECTED

The removal of Mr. Uzzi, a well-respected marketer who had been with Quaker starting on its Gatorade brand since early 1994, is said to have been part of a far-reachQuaker's Uzzi gets ax

ing plan engineered by industry consultant Bevmark.

Bevmark was brought in by Mr. Smithburg himself about two months ago and is said to have been behind the big shifts undertaken by Quaker recently, including the firing of previous Snapple agency Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners, New York; the sampling push beginning this week; and the departure last month of Snapple VP-Marketing Margaret Stender.

Tom Pirko, president of New York-based Bevmark, declined to name any of his clients or confirm work with Quaker. But he expressed strong feelings that a clean sweep had been long overdue on Snapple.

`RUN POORLY'

"The business was run poorly," he said. "For the last two years it's been run into the ground .... If someone's not succeeding in moving the brand, it's time to get someone new. That's the way we advise CEOs."

A Quaker spokesman confirmed Bevmark has been consulting on Snapple but declined to give specifics on its role. Mr. Uzzi could not be reached for comment.

Those familiar with Snapple's situation predict an outsider eventually will be brought in to run the brand.

In the interim, Quaker named Charles Maniscalco, former VP-marketing for Aunt Jemima and the frozen-food business sold to Van de Kamp, as Snapple VP-marketing. The two other team members are William Redmond, who continues as VP-sales and field operations for Snapple, and Jeffery Atkins, Quaker VP-corporate planning, who will take that title at Snapple as well.

HOT MARKATING TEAM

While Mr. Uzzi is credited with driving the hugely successful Gatorade franchise, agency executives were quick to point out he was part of a hot marketing team on Gatorade. It includes Exec VP Jim Doyle and VP-Sports Marketing Bill Schmidt, both at Quaker Beverages Worldwide; and Gatorade VP-Marketing Sue Wellington.

Executives familiar with the situation said the shakeup is taking place as Mr. Smithburg-under increasing pressure from investors unhappy with Quaker's announcement last June that earnings this year would decrease because of Snapple-seeks to prove to Wall Street he can make a go of the brand. Quaker bought Snapple for what was considered an excessive $1.7 billion in December 1994.

SMITHBURG'S CONCLUSION

"At the end of the day, Smithburg didn't think Don [Uzzi] was right for the job," said an executive familiar with the situation. "Don is the more traditional, P&G-trained, Pepsi beverage operator" unsuited to the different distribution world of Snapple.

This executive said Mr. Smithburg had been casting about for a replacement for some time but felt compelled to let Mr. Uzzi go before a replacement was on board because his search was becoming public.

"Clearly during the first 18 months of owning the brand, Snapple has not achieved expectations," Mr. Smithburg said in a statement. "We studied the business from all aspects .... Recent major decisions, including changing the advertising agency and the advertising and merchandising plans, are an important step but are only part of the transformation we must make on the business."

DEFENDING `THREEDOM'

Ms. Stender was let go, said another executive close to the company, because she defended Kirshenbaum's "Threedom is freedom" effort for Snapple.

At the same time Ms. Stender left, Mary Dillon, Snapple director of new products, also departed abruptly. Neither could be reached for comment.

Positioning Snapple against giants Coke and Pepsi, which the Kirshenbaum campaign was said to do, "is like a guppy going after a shark," said Mr. Pirko.

The departure of Mr. Uzzi was so sudden that as late as July 18 he still had plans to attend a scheduled meeting with marketing editors today to discuss Snapple's new campaign from Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago, which begin running this week.

That effort, themed "Spread the good taste all over the place," includes $18 million in media spending and another $22 million to support an enormous sampling effort set to hit "every man, woman and child in the U.S." this summer, according to Quaker.

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