Kraft CEO makes first visit to Cadbury’s historic Bourneville factory

Friday, October 8, 2010

Kraft CEO makes first visit to Cadbury base

LONDON — Kraft Chief Executive Irene Rosenfeld made her first visit to British chocolate maker Cadbury’s historic base in Bournville, England, on Friday to meet management and employees.

Rosenfeld was criticised during the often fraught takeover battle for Cadbury earlier this year for not coming to Britain to see the 195-year-old company’s operations in person.

Kraft did not publicise the visit, which included a factory tour, in advance. A London-based spokesman for the U.S. food company, speaking on condition of anonymity citing company policy, said it was a “good and positive visit.”

In an interview posted on the BBC website, Rosenfeld said that she could not rule out further Cadbury plant closures beyond the two-year period during which it has pledged there will be no more compulsory lay-offs.

Rosenfeld also said she regretted uncertainty caused by Kraft’s backtrack on Cadbury’s Somerdale plant in western England. During the long and bitter takeover battle, Kraft said it would save the Somerdale plant and 400 associated jobs, a decision that would have reversed earlier plans by Cadbury to close the factory and move production to Poland.

However, shortly after Kraft completed the deal in February, it said the plant would close by 2011.

“I certainly regret the uncertainty that we caused as a consequence of some of our initial statements, but I think what’s most important is that we are moving forward now,” Rosenfeld told the BBC.

Kraft’s takeover of 195-year-old Cadbury caused much consternation in Britain, where it is a much-loved brand. Rosenfeld came under further fire from lawmakers and union leaders when the deal was completed when she declined to appear before parliamentary committee tasked with investigating the takeover, sending Executive Vice President Marc Firestone instead.

The town of Bournville in central England was created by Cadbury family in the late 1870s when they decided to move the business out of the nearby city of Birmingham. The family created a model village for its workers in the town, complete with sports facilities and schools. It is famed for its lack of a pub — the Cadbury’s were strict Quakers.

The factory, with its fluttering purple flags, remains the pride of the town.

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