William Johnson is about to be handed a very full plate. H.J. Heinz's chief operating officer and heir apparent will head up a companywide restructuring that was to be unveiled on Mar. 14. The plan, which Heinz sources say involves thousands of job cuts and more than $500 million in charges, is expected to return central control of Heinz's businesses--from tuna plants in Ghana to baby food factories in India--to headquarters in Pittsburgh.
Johnson's top challenge may be Heinz's $1.5 billion Weight Watchers unit. Johnson and CEO Anthony O'Reilly are putting Weight Watchers, which is earning only about $10 million in the U.S., on a diet. To shed $50 million in costs over two years, Weight Watchers will close 258 storefronts and move meetings back to rented spaces in churches and schools. Also, there's a new marketing campaign featuring Sarah Ferguson, former Duchess of York.
Weight Watchers has underperformed since 1990. If it stumbles again, Johnson may want to cross it off of Heinz's menu.