Heinz Sets The Record Straight
We are disturbed by the number of basic errors in your article "The new life of O'Reilly" (People, June 13). The following are some examples:
-- Your report that William R. Johnson is "still not on the board" of directors despite the fact that he and William C. Springer were nominated in last year's proxy and elected at last September's annual meeting.
-- U.S. consumers have "turned away from the company's premium price brands." The market shares of our big brands in Ore-Ida, StarKist, 9-Lives, and Heinz ketchup have increased. Overseas, Plasmon and Heinz baby food in the U.K., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have also grown. Heinz has 18 power brands around the world, each with over $100 million in sales. O'Reilly clearly did not "concede" that our brand- oriented strategy isn't working when it clearly is.
-- In his interview, O'Reilly twice confirmed that he had been rocked by an earthquake in Bombay, but you reported him in Calcutta, 1,000 miles away.
-- You describe food service as "deadly dull." What is "deadly dull" about 5% growth per year and, when on any given day, half the adult population is dining on food-service products.
-- Regarding baby food, you omit pointing out that Sandoz' acquisition of Gerber for 30 times earnings actually validates our previously announced baby food growth strategy. You write, "Heinz will likely feel the heat first in Sandoz' home territory--countries such as Switzerland and France." Suffice to say, Heinz does not compete in these two countries.
-- You report that the Kathleen Sullivan winter TV ad campaign "bombed." Lower Weight Watchers attendance last winter was due primarily to the worst winter in years and the California earthquake. Attendance has, in fact, shown a positive response to the Kathleen Sullivan campaign post-Easter.
-- Fourteen Research Corp. is not one of our "largest institutional shareholders." Although we would welcome it as a shareholder, current listings of our institutional shareholders don't include it.
Vice-President, Corporate Affairs
H.J. Heinz Co.
Editor's note: The Heinz story contained a number of errors. The story was wrong regarding Johnson's board service, the site of the earthquake, and Heinz's presence in Switzerland and France. Other errors were an assertion that the investment by O'Reilly's Fitzwilton PLC in Waterford Wedgwood is its largest (It is No.2) and the statement that O'Reilly is a director of General Electric Co. (He is a director of an unrelated U.K. company, General Electric Co. PLC). The mention of Fourteen Research Corp., which followed a sentence quoting an unidentified institutional investor, wasn't intended to assert that Fourteen Research is an investor.