Turnaround expert takes helm of Chiquita - The Packer

Turnaround expert takes helm of Chiquita

10/03/2012 11:24:00 AM
Andy Nelson

Ed Lonergan mugLonergan(UDPATED COVERAGE, Oct. 4) Chiquita Brands International has named a new president and chief executive officer.

Edward Lonergan will take the Charlotte, N.C.-based company’s two top jobs Oct. 8, according to a Chiquita news release. Also effective Oct. 8, Kerrii Anderson will become chairwoman of Chiquita’s board of directors.

Lonergan, who worked most recently as president and chief executive officer of Diversey, Inc., a maker of sustainable cleaning, sanitation and hygiene products, succeeds Fernando Aguirre.

Lonergan has a reputation as a turnaround specialist, said Monrovia, Calif.-based produce industry consultant Dick Spezzano.

“That’s certainly what Chiquita needs,” he said. “They need to focus on what their real business is.”

That could mean leveraging the strength of the Chiquita brand, Spezzano said.

“They have a very strong brand franchise, and they could do a better job of extending that brand in areas where it makes sense.”

Ed Odron, owner of Stockton, Calif.-based Ed Odron Produce Marketing Consulting, said that despite its ventures into new areas of business that didn’t pan out, Chiquita is a fundamentally sound company that should fare well under Lonergan.

“It seems like from everything I’ve heard and read, this guy’s going to pull it together,” he said. “Down deep, I think Chiquita has a good foundation.”

Odron expects Chiquita to focus on bananas and other core commodities under Lonergan.

Chiquita officials did not return requests for comment.

In August, Chiquita announced a 92% drop in profits for 2012’s second quarter compared to 2011, and officials said the company would look for a new chief executive and planned to restructure.

Chiquita’s stock has fallen precipitously over the past year, and the company has registered four straight quarters of declining revenue. Net income in the second quarter of 2012 was $6 million, down from $78 million in the second quarter of 2011.

During his tenure, Aguirre, who led the company for almost nine years, expanded research and development and invested heavily in diversifying.

Going forward, company officials said in August that the company will focus on simplifying its administrative and manufacturing structures.

Chiquita’s goal is to achieve operating margins of 4% in its banana division and 7% to 8% in bagged salads.

Chiquita officials expect the restructuring effort to net $60 million in annual savings, beginning with $8 million saved in the fourth quarter of 2012. The company plans to eliminate about 310 jobs.



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