Morrison Suddenly Retires from Campbell Soup

May 18, 2018
Director Keith McLoughlin is interim CEO while COO Luca Mignini waits in the wings.
After a rocky, seven-year stint as CEO, in which sales slipped as she turned the company away from its namesake product, Denise Morrison has suddenly retired as CEO of Campbell Soup Co. She's 64.

The company made the announcement today (May 18), saying Morrison "has chosen to retire effective today," and installed a director of two years, Keith McLoughlin, as interim CEO. In the announcement, there were hints but no explicit statement that a formal search for a replacement would begin.

Recall that just in April, Luca Mignini, who was president of Global Biscuits and Snacks, was named the company's first chief operating officer in years, and about 90 percent of the company's sales were placed under him.

McLoughlin, a longtime employee of appliance maker Electrolux and its former CEO, has been a Campbell board member since 2016. He will remain on the board "to facilitate an orderly transition in management while recently elevated Chief Operating Officer Luca Mignini focuses on the integration of newly acquired Snyder’s-Lance and Pacific Foods and stabilizing the company’s U.S. soup business," the company statement said.

Morrison has indeed transformed the company – soup is estimated to account for just 27 percent of sales now while snacks now account for half. But overall company sales have declined three years in a row, as soup sales in particular slipped and some pricey acquisitions have not entirely paid off.

Since 2012, Campbell acquired Bolthouse Farms, Denmark's Kelsen Group, Plum Organics, Garden Fresh Gourmet and Pacific Foods of Oregon. But the biggest acquisition in its history came this March when the company spent nearly $5 billion to acquire Snyder’s-Lance, a maker of salty snacks.

Campbell sales were $8.268 billion in 2014 and $7.890 billion in 2017.

It stock price eclipsed $66 per share on June 1, 2016, but as of mid-morning today was trading at $35.

“Denise has been a passionate advocate and leader over her 15 years with the company," said Les Vinney, chairman of the board. "She has made many important contributions over the past seven years as Chief Executive Officer to reposition Campbell in the rapidly changing food industry. Denise has been able to significantly transform Campbell’s portfolio into the faster-growing snacking category with the acquisition of Snyder’s-Lance and increased the company’s focus on health and well-being with brands like Pacific Foods. Her actions have helped to enhance the long-term growth potential of Campbell."

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