Hershey, PA — John P. Bilbrey, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The Hershey Co. intends to retire effective July 1, 2017, the company reports. Following his retirement, Bilbrey will continue as non-executive chairman of Hershey’s Board of Directors.
“I have had the privilege of working in consumer packaged goods for more than 35 years and leading The Hershey Co. has been the highlight of my career,” said Bilbrey in a statement from the company. “Our iconic brands, remarkable employees and commitment to making a difference in the world has made this a difficult decision for me. But now is the right time to begin the process of handing over the reins as CEO as it will allow me to spend more time with my family and wonderful grandchildren.
“I am proud of all that we have accomplished as a team,” Bilbrey continued. “I am confident the board will identify an outstanding candidate to lead The Hershey Co. through this next phase of growth. I look forward to working alongside the board to make the transition to new leadership a seamless process. Until that time, I will continue to work closely with my management team to grow the business and create additional value for all stockholders.”
A special committee has been appointed to direct the search for a new CEO, according to the company, led by Pamela Arway, chair of the Governance Committee. The committee will review internal and external candidates with assistance from Egon Zehnder, an executive search firm.
In other news from the company, James E. Nevels, the Hershey’s lead independent director, does not intend to stand for re-election at the company’s 2017 Annual Meeting of Stockholders. Nevels, age 64, was elected to the board in 2007 and served as non-executive chairman from 2009 until 2015. He will serve as lead independent director for the remainder of his term.
“It has been an honor to serve on the board of the greatest confectionery company in the world,” Nevels said in a statement. “I am fully confident that after nearly a decade of service, the time is right for me to move on to other pursuits. This decision provides the board with the continued opportunity to select diverse and experienced members who can help guide the company through its next phase of growth and consumer-centric brand building.”
The company expects to hold its 2017 annual meeting on May 3.