- President and CEO of Hershey John P. Bilbrey will retire from the company on July 1, 2017, according to a company statement.
- Bilbrey will continue as non-executive chairman on Hershey's board of directors after July 2017.
- Hershey's board of directors has organized a committee to hire a new CEO.
Bilbrey said in a statement that he is stepping down to spend more time with his family and hand over the reins to the company's next CEO. Bilbrey has had a busy summer contending with rumors of a Nestle takeover in June and then the company's rejection of a takeover bid by Mondelez later that month. Mondelez eventually walked away from the potential deal due to shareholder changes at the Hershey Trust, which caused Hershey's share price to fall nearly 10% in after-hours trading after the news broke.
This takeover bid created a "new sense of urgency" at Hershey, according to a July report from Credit Suisse analyst Robert Moskow. That urgency may have been more than Bilbrey was willing to handle long term.
The next CEO has the monumental task of continuing to inspire growth and innovation at Hershey in an increasingly competitive chocolate industry. The new executive will also have to balance speculation that the company could be an acquisition target in the future, if management can get the Hershey Trust and Pennsylvania attorney general onboard. Bilbrey will remain at his post until July, which still gives him plenty of time to enact more change and development at the company before he steps down.
Along with the announcement of Bilbrey's retirement, Hershey also reaffirmed its full-year guidance. Because Bilbrey's retirement may have been unexpected for investors, this was a key play by Hershey to ensure investors don't become concerned about Hershey's financial future, which could cause its share price to tank. Instead, the company's shares saw a 1.4% uptick in premarket trading.