Billionaire Lemann stepping down from Kraft Heinz’s board

Stock rallied: People shop at Kraft Heinz booth at the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting in Nebraska. Kraft Heinz has rallied recently, partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as people worldwide stocked their pantries with packaged food. — Reuters

CHICAGO: Jorge Paulo Lemann is leaving the board of Kraft Heinz Co, the giant consumer company he helped put together with Warren Buffett that’s since lost half its value.

Lemann “has decided to reduce his travel commitments and will not seek re-election, ” the company said in a regulatory filing.

The decision “is not the result of any disagreement with management or the board.”

As co-founder of private equity firm 3G Capital Partners, Lemann, 81, has orchestrated some of the biggest consumer deals in history. He has interests in Anheuser-Busch InBev NV, the world’s largest brewer, and Restaurant Brands International, the company behind Burger King.

He’s worth US$22bil (RM89.27bil), according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, making him the richest person in Brazil and one of the most successful private equity titans.

In 2015, he teamed up with Buffett and created Kraft Heinz through a merger.

The company’s shares have dropped more than 50%, as 3G’s signature management style of cutting costs and seeking debt-driven mergers failed. The company also was hit with a US$15bil writedown in 2019 that sparked a change in strategy and leadership. Lemann admitted that “the big dream” he had for Kraft Heinz didn’t work out.

“It’s not possible anymore to build something in the food business like we did in the beer business. We tried, it didn’t work and we’ll fix it, ” he promised in an event in 2019, after appointing AB Inbev’s long-time executive Miguel Patricio as chief executive officer.

The company has rallied recently, partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as people worldwide stocked their pantries with packaged food.

3G Capital will appoint Lemann’s replacement, according to the filing. The Swiss-Brazilian businessman has six children, with some also serving at the board of some of his companies, like Brazilian retailer Lojas Americanas SA. — Bloomberg

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