For months, speculation has swirled that Hamdi Ulukaya, the man responsible for hooking Americans on Greek yogurt, might be forced out as chief executive officer of Chobani, which since 2007 has mushroomed into a $1.2 billion affront to food giants such as General Mills and Dannon. Last year, after presiding over production delays, canceled orders, and a product recall, the entrepreneur got $750 million from private equity shop TPG Capital in exchange for preferred stock to ease a cash crunch. As part of the deal, Ulukaya was to explore bringing on a seasoned manager as CEO.
But with operations stabilizing and Chobani still growing faster than the overall yogurt market, Ulukaya now says he plans to stick around. “All that chatter out there, I look at it and I laugh and I smile,” says the founder, 44. “Nobody could think of Chobani without me and me without Chobani. Walking away from this is walking away from my life.”