HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The Hershey Co. board said Tuesday that another former Nabisco executive will follow Richard H. Lenny at the helm of the nation's largest candymaker.
David J. West, Hershey's chief operating officer, was named company president and a director, effectively immediately, and will become chief executive on Dec. 1, the board said in a statement. The move came a day after Lenny announced he was stepping down as chief executive following six tumultuous years at Hershey.
''Dave is a very strong leader with an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of Hershey's business,'' company director Robert H. Campbell said in the statement.
Hershey's stock fell $1.63 a share, or 3.4 percent, to $45.78 in trading Tuesday.
Lenny, who was the first CEO hired from outside Hershey, will remain as chairman through the end of the year, when Campbell will take over, the company said.
Campbell, 69, is the former chairman and chief executive of Philadelphia-based petroleum refiner Sunoco Inc. and has been a Hershey director since 1995.
Soon after Lenny left Nabisco for Hershey in 2001, he hired West away from the snack company to come up with a marketing plan for the candymaker. West, 44, became Hershey's chief financial officer in 2005 and chief operating officer in January.
After shrugging off a near-sale and a six-week strike in 2002, Hershey's revenue grew quickly — 6.2 percent in 2004 and 8.8 percent in 2005 — on the strength of new and limited edition versions of some of its best known brands, such as Hershey's Kisses and Reese's peanut butter cups.
However, the company has yet to recover after it stumbled last fall while shifting from those products to a new platform of dark and organic chocolates, which it views as a fast growing, high-margin segment. Advertising flopped, leaving stores backed up with its older products. Its closest competitor, Mars Inc., which makes M&M's, gained ground in the domestic market.
Hershey's share price also has suffered, dropping from almost $58 a share two years ago.
Meanwhile, Lenny has sought to expand Hershey's reach with joint ventures in China and India, where its competitors are already active. Earlier this year, Hershey announced it will close six U.S. and Canadian plants and cut more than 3,000 workers in the two countries, including 900 total at its hometown plants, and shift more of its production to contractors and a new plant under construction in Mexico.