He added that total shipments of Ocean Spray citrus products could reach 15 million cartons in 2003.
Part of reasons for the change in the board was that the company wants to focus on being more responsive to its member growers, Phillips said.
“The point is, as this new board takes the reins, Ocean Spray is starting from a position of strength as a company,” he said. “But there’s an enormous amount of work to be done to get the returns back to where they need them to be.”
There is still a vacancy at the top of Ocean Spray’s corporate roster. In November, Robert Hawthorne resigned as chief executive officer after less than three years on the job, and the company is searching for a successor.
“The company is looking for someone with a strong consumer goods marketing background and who would understand the dynamics of a unique agricultural cooperative,” Phillips said, adding that no potential candidates had yet emerged.
In the meantime, Ocean Spray director Barbara Thomas is serving as CEO of the firm, which controls more than 75% of the world’s cranberry supplies, although only a small percentage of the cranberry crop goes to the fresh market.
Northland, the world’s largest cranberry grower and a member of Ocean Spray’s cooperative until 1993, wants to buy Ocean Spray’s juice business and brand and last week made an offer which was made public Feb. 27, just before Ocean Spray’s March 8 annual meeting.
The announcement of the offer was purely coincidental to Ocean Spray electing its new board, Swendrowski said.
“It was very unfortunate that we had to announce our offer when we did,” he said. “We made the offer six days before we announced it.”
He said the offer was not made public in anticipation of a new board at Ocean Spray.
“We said that we don’t want to interfere with their corporate governance,” Swendrowski said. “We have no interest in who gets elected. We’re willing to meet with whoever gets elected to the board. We’re sorry it happened that way.”
But, he added, he remains hopeful that the offer ultimately will be accepted.
“I am confident that the board of directors will act in a manner they believe will be is in the best interest of shareholders of Ocean Spray,” Swendrowski said.
The timing of the offer, nevertheless, apparently did not please the Growers Information Coalition, which represents cranberry and citrus growers.