4. United Fresh, PMA merger falls through

12/28/2012 12:21:00 PM
Greg Johnson

Year in Produce 2012It seemed as if the entire produce industry looked forward to the merger of the United Fresh Produce Association and the Produce Marketing Association, but the two groups’ boards could not come to an agreement in 2012.

On July 13, the two boards ended 18 months of negotiations, and the ultimate sticking point was who would lead the combined organization.

The PMA board insisted its CEO Bryan Silbermann be the head of the group, and the United Fresh board wanted the position to be open, which could have led to its CEO Tom Stenzel being the leader.

In the wake of the failed merger, both groups vow to prove their value to their members.

The Packer’s National Editor Tom Karst proposed a half-joking solution to the leadership strategy of a new merged association.

Feb. 13
Finding a way to see who wants it the most
Tom Karst, National Editor

How many times have you heard people say they love their job so much they would still do it even if they were paid nothing? Well, you haven’t heard me say that, because I have a mortgage, college loans, and the list goes on. You get the idea.

Not many people can afford to be so generous with their sentiments toward their employer or so disdainful of their pocket book. But I’ve thought about the concept as I think of a central problem that may hold up a merger between the United Fresh Produce Association and the Produce Marketing Association.

Let’s face the facts. The industry has two lead lions in the pride. Tom Stenzel is the longtime leader of United Fresh, and Bryan Silbermann is at the top of his game at PMA. Both are well-compensated for their work, to the tune of six figures plus-plus. Should the boards of a unified association decide its new leader based on lobbying prowess? Is it the track record of financial growth? Should the balance sheet or “business model” execution alone tell the tale? Number of employees? All of those questions are of little consequence. Both are familiar and trusted figures in the industry. These associations are “member driven” but are defined by their larger-than-life presidents.

Let’s assume — for the sake of argument — that both are equally qualified to lead a unified organization. How will the industry decide which lion will lead the pride?

Here is how I would approach the problem. Both men would be eligible to lead the organization, but the job would be awarded in reverse Dutch-auction style.


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