John P. (JP) Bilbrey, chairman, president and CEO of Hershey Co., will retire from the company July 1, 2017, it was announced today (Oct. 14). No immediate replacement was named. He will, however, continue as non-executive chairman of the board of directors after that date.
Bilbrey became CEO after the sudden May 2011 departure of David West, who left to head a newly privatized Del Monte. At the time, Bilbrey was an executive vice president and COO. He's been with Hershey a total of 13 years.
He presided over a relatively calm period of the candy company – until this past summer, when Mondelez made an offer to buy Hershey. That overture apparently has ended without action. Bilbrey presided over several small acquisitions, including the novel purchase of beef jerky company Krave.
“I have had the privilege of working in consumer packaged goods for more than 35 years, and leading The Hershey Company has been the highlight of my career,” said Bilbrey. “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.”
The board appointed a special committee to direct the search for a new CEO. Coincidentally, Michele Buck, an 11-year veteran executive and most recently an executive VP, was promoted to COO this past summer.