- Post Holdings said CEO Rob Vitale will be taking an “unexpected” medical leave of absence, and that it “is too soon to know the course of treatment and timing of recovery.” It was not immediately known how long Vitale would be away from his position or what his medical condition is.
- The company’s board named Jeff Zadoks, currently Post’s executive vice president and chief operating officer, as interim CEO while Vitale is on leave.
- Vitale has been instrumental in growing Post beyond its roots as a cereal company into other categories including liquid eggs, cut potatoes, Peter Pan peanut butter, Bob Evans refrigerated sides and pet food.
Since Vitale started running Post in late 2014 after previously serving as its CFO, the 57-year-old has overseen a sharp increase in sales and growth in his company’s stock price.
Post sales have risen from $4.6 billion in 2015, its first full fiscal year with Vitale at the helm, to about $6 billion in 2022 — a figure that excludes about $2 billion from businesses that have been divested or separately capitalized. The company’s shares have increased 15% annually since Vitale took over, outpacing an 8.6% yearly jump in the S&P Food & Beverage Index during the same period.
While Vitale’s absence is a big loss, Post is organized in such a way that his time away from leading Post shouldn’t meaningfully impact the company, at least in the near term. Many of the St. Louis company’s top executives have been with the company for years and are intimately familiar with its business model and strategy. Zadoks, the interim CEO, started at Post the same day as Vitale in 2011.
“Our thoughts and best wishes go out to Rob as he recovers,” Bill Stiritz, Post’s chairman, said in a statement. “Post’s operating model and exceptional team of business unit and holding company executives give me great confidence in our ability to maintain the continuity of our business.”
Scott Harrison, a portfolio manager at Argent Capital Management in St. Louis, whose firm owns Post’s stock, recently told Food Dive that the company has excelled in building a deep executive bench to support Vitale.
“Management at a company typically doesn’t come down to one person,” Harrison said. “Post has developed talent. They continue to focus on that as they’ve grown throughout the years.”
Post is divided into five segments that have their own management team. While Vitale keeps a close watch on each division with leaders who report directly to him, Post’s structure allows Vitale to take a wider view of the company so he can plot strategy, comb the market for acquisition targets and observe broader changes taking place in the packaged goods sector.
For any company, including Post, losing the CEO for an extended period is bound to create some type of uncertainty as employees slide into new roles or take over additional responsibilities. While Post is undoubtedly a stronger company with Vitale at the helm, it should be well-positioned to weather his absence.