Richard Lenny, 55, on Monday retired from Hershey Co., America’s leading confectionary company. David West, 44, has taken over as chief executive officer. Kenneth Wolfe, a retired Hershey chief executive officer, became chairman on Tuesday.
Lenny had announced his retirement Oct. 1, 2007. He had joined to company in March 2001 as president and chief executive officer. Lenny leaves amid reports that he was at odds with the Hershey Trust Co. over the direction of the company and with the company experiencing a three-year low in its stock price. Additionally, the United States and Canada are conducting separate investigations into a price-fixing scheme among Hershey and its competitors.
The current status of the company is a marked contrast to the Hershey of Lenny’s first five years at the helm when he embarked on a value-enhancing strategy that focused on “profitable growth.” He had utilized his packaged foods background from Kraft/ Nabisco to advance Hershey’s single-serve products to alternative retail channels, extended product lines with limited editions, introduced Kissables and brought out candies for calorie-conscious consumers.
Larry Graham, president of the National Confectioners Association, a trade group in which Hershey is a longtime member said in a prepared statement that Lenny’s “leadership skills helped not only his own company move forward and realize new goals, but, in fact, propelled an industry to examine and refine the role of candy and snacks in America.”
The company currently is experiencing slowed growth due in part to its small exposure in overseas markets and its heavy reliance on the U.S. market where consumers are moving toward the antioxidant-rich dark chocolate at the expense of Hershey’s milk-chocolate lines.