Employees at Ben & Jerry's Homemade last week gave a "spoons up" to incoming President-CEO Robert Holland Jr., who beat out some 25,000 other hopefuls. He will be coming to a company facing a fourth-quarter loss of up to $900,000 and sales decline of 5%. Unlike most of the competition, Mr. Holland wasn't culled from the socially conscious ice cream marketer's "Yo! I'm Your CEO" contest. And he didn't write an essay.
He was fielded by top recruiting company Russell Reynolds, which was told by the company's board that a poet would be a plus. The socially aware Mr. Holland wrote a poem-after he got the job.
In "Time, Values & Ice Cream," Mr. Holland pays homage to America, a "confusing place this melodious mix" in which "some nostalgia stayed 'yond one's grasp, like Sullivans, the ice cream place on Main-swivel stools, cozy booths, and sweet, sweet smells .*.*."
The 54-year-old has traveled far since his Michigan boyhood. Under Mr. Holland's guidance, Ben & Jerry's should also log some miles. His aim is "wherever people think ice cream, they'll think Ben & Jerry's. And sometime not in the too distant future."
He'll also expand the brand name to other products in a way "that adds value to the name but is consistent with Ben & Jerry's."
Matthew Patsky, an analyst with Robertson Stephens & Co., San Francisco, applauded the move. Founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield "got the company through the initial stages. But the company needed a strong manager and a leader, not just a spiritual leader. This shouldn't be a $150 million company; it should be a $500 million company. Licensing is a big opportunity."
Mr. Holland succeeds Chairman Cohen as CEO, and Chuck Lacy, who resigned in a surprise move, as president. Mr. Greenfield continues as vice chairman.
Though Mr. Holland admitted marketing is not his forte, he has had "extensive experience working as consultant on consumer goods including for one of the two largest soft-drink companies," and expects to get involved in that as well.
But his attention, at least at the start, will be elsewhere.
"It's a unique organization," said Russell Reynolds' Melanie Kusin, who oversaw the search. "Marketing is already there. But the business needs strategic and operations help ... Bob can bring more sophistication to the business."
---------------------------------------------------------------------------- Robert Holland Jr.
BIRTH DATE: April 11, 1940, Albion, Mich.
EDUCATION: B.S., Union College, Schenectady, N.Y., and MBA, International Marketing, Bernard Baruch Graduate School, New York
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Chairman-CEO, Rokher-J Inc., an acquisition
company of sales and service-oriented businesses, White Plains, N.Y.; chairman, Gilreath Manufacturing, 1987-91; chairman-CEO, Rokher-J, a Michigan company whose principal business was beverage distribution company City Marketing, 1984-87; associate and partner, McKinsey &
Co., New York, 1968-81.