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Ben & Jerry CEO Leaving, Founders Pay Tribute

Founders of Ben & Jerry's ice cream said they were sad chief executive officer Walt Freese resigned, applauding his support of company's social and environmental heritage.

LONDON (AP) -- The founders of Ben & Jerry's ice cream said Wednesday they were sad that chief executive officer Walt Freese has resigned, applauding his success in championing the company's heritage of social and environmental values.

Ben & Jerry's, known for its quirky flavors and support for social causes, announced last week that Freese is leaving at the end of next month to pursue other "values-led business and investment opportunities."

Freese joined the company's parent, food multinational Unilever NV, eight years ago.

"I'm very sorry to see Walt go," Jerry Greenfield said on a brief business trip to the British capital with co-founder Ben Cohen. "I think he did a great job at the company."

"It's difficult to find somebody who not only has the business expertise, but also passionately shares the social values of the company, and Walt I think is somebody who is very unusual in that respect," he added.

Greenfield and Cohen are still engaged with the company as consultants, but do not hold any board or management position and are no longer involved in the day-to-day management since the sale to Unilever in 2000.

However, they said they expected to be consulted in the search for a new CEO.

"Would you want to run it by Ben & Jerry? I'd want to run it by Ben and Jerry," said Greenfield.

Asked if either of them would be willing to put their hat back in the ring, Greenfield said the response was "a pretty quick no" from him. Cohen, who resigned as CEO in 1995 before the Unilever buyout, didn't directly answer the question.

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