Hershey CEO Bilbrey Preparing to Step Down, Reuters Reports

  • Board has formed committee to seek successor, report says
  • Chocolate-maker in August rejected Mondelez takeover offer

John Bilbrey.

Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

Hershey Co. Chief Executive Officer John Bilbrey is preparing to step down by next summer, the Reuters news agency reported, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter.

The Hershey, Pennsylvania-based chocolate maker’s board of directors is preparing for the resignation and has formed a committee to find a successor, according to the report late Thursday. Bilbrey is stepping down to spend more time with his family, and plans to remain nonexecutive chairman on Hershey’s board, Reuters reported, citing an unidentified person.

Jennifer Sniderman, a spokeswoman for Hershey, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment after business hours.

Hershey, struggling with shifting consumer tastes and an ill-fated expansion into China, may now have scared away future suitors after it rejected an improved takeover offer from Mondelez International Inc. in August. Turmoil at the Hershey Trust, the nonprofit organization that controls the company, had also hampered merger talks.

Hershey shares rose 0.7 percent to $95.65 by the close of trading in New York on Thursday. The shares have plunged 14 percent since Aug. 29, after it rejected the Mondelez bid.

Its Hershey’s Kisses and candy bars will now face more competition from the spurned suitor. Deerfield, Illinois-based Mondelez is preparing to make its own play for U.S. chocolate consumers by rolling out Oreo-branded candy bars -- already available in some countries overseas -- in an attempt to crack a domestic market where it has little presence.

— With assistance by Daryl Loo

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