Wrigley Names Perez As New President, CEO

Wrigley Names Perez As New President, CEO

Wrigley Names Perez
As New President, CEO

Candy and chewing-gum maker Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. named outsider William D. Perez as president and chief executive, succeeding Bill Wrigley, Jr., who will remain chairman -- marking a major shift for the company.

The move marks the first time in the company's 114-year history that a nonfamily member was appointed to lead the company, which makes Hubba Bubba gum, Altoids mints and Life Savers candies in addition to its namesake Wrigley gums.

In midmorning trading, shares of Wrigley were up $6.66, or 14%, at $53.49 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Mr. Perez, 59 years old, spent 34 years with SC Johnson, including eight years as president and chief executive of the closely held consumer-products company. In 2004, he joined Nike Inc., where he briefly served as chief executive officer until earlier this year amid disagreements with the company and its founder, Philip H. Knight.

"The appointment of Bill Perez to be the first person to serve as president and CEO from outside the family is indeed an historic and important milestone for our company," said Bill Wrigley, Jr., in a statement.

The company has seen its stock slump this year. The problem, in large measure, stems from Bill Wrigley Jr.'s big bet on something other than gum. Last year, the company shelled out more than $1.4 billion to buy Life Savers, Altoids and other related businesses from Kraft Foods Inc. Like Kraft, General Mills Inc. and other food companies that went on buying sprees in the late 1990s, Wrigley is finding it isn't so easy to buy your way to higher profit.

Wrigley has long been known for its conservative ways. Until 1998, the only product it sold in the U.S. was stick gum. And when it comes to gum, Wrigley has been tremendously successful, accounting for some 63% of the U.S. market with brands that include Wrigley Doublemint, Big Red and Juicy Fruit.

But after Mr. Wrigley took control of the company following his father's death in 1999, he began looking for ways to diversify. Wrigley had an agreement with Hershey Co. to purchase the chocolate maker for $12.5 billion back in 2002, but the deal was scuttled at the last minute when Hershey's controlling trust voted against it.

Separately, Wm. Wrigley reported Monday its net income rose 14% to $148 million, or 53 cents a share, in the third quarter, from $129.7 million, or 46 cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Sales rose 11% to $1.18 billion from $1.06 billion. The results included a restructuring charge of two cents a share. On a non-GAAP basis, earnings per share increased to 57 cents a share from 47 cents a share.

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