Tamara Minick-Scokalo resurfaces in top role at Pearson

February 22, 2012

The career of high-flying international executive Tamara Minick-Scokalo has, it seems, become a staple feature of this blog. So it might be of interest to note that she has just landed another top job.

Pearson, owner among other things of The Financial Times and Penguin, has picked her as president Europe, Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean of its education business.

Minick-Scokalo, who is currently based in Geneva, has had a somewhat chequered résumé in recent years. Twenty years into a marketing career at Procter & Gamble, she briefly switched to senior European marketing roles at EJ Gallo and Elizabeth Arden before surfacing at Cadbury as head of global commerce in 2007. That move was a success, but the subsequent appointment to president of Cadbury Europe was not: she left less than a year later. Only to emerge triumphant and phoenix-like, in 2010, as the new president of chocolate Europe, following Kraft’s takeover of Cadbury.

But the title was an illusion, and carried much less weight than her previous operational role at Cadbury. Minick-Scokalo – like other senior ex-Cadburyites – seems to have found Kraft excessively bureaucratic and the idea of a career centered in Zurich frankly unappetising.

She left less than 6 months later, and – interestingly for such a corporate creature – set up as an entrepreneur. Trax, which is what she founded, is an IT/sales and marketing operation specialising in retail. What will happen to it now, I have no idea.

The international education division, headed by chief executive John Fallon, is viewed as one of Pearson’s most aggressively expanding operations. It has made several large scale acquisitions in recent years, including the Wall Street education business and the China-based Global Education and Technology Group. Minick-Scokalo clearly has experience of corporate integration at the highest level. Nevertheless, her marketing pedigree is probably more in demand at Pearson.


That was quick – Tamara Minick-Scokalo quits Kraft. Ignasi Ricou goes too

October 12, 2010

Whatever is going on at Kraft’s newly swelled confectionery division (formerly known as Cadbury)? Two top executives are walking, both allegedly for “personal reasons”. And one of them – head of European chocolate Tamara Minick-Scokalo – was hired only a few months ago.

Ignasi Ricou, the other executive to depart, is just the sort of top management Kraft can least afford to lose. After the controversial $20bn Kraft takeover earlier this year, Cadbury operations accounted for about 80% of Kraft’s confectionery interests worldwide – and punched even further above their weight in fast-growing emerging markets. Clearly Cadbury management continuity – at least in the medium term – is critical to bedding down what Kraft has acquired. Ricou was apparently a showcase example of continuity in action. He joined Cadbury in 2003 and rose to president of European operations just prior to the hostile takeover bid. Post-merger, he agreed to stay on as head of European sales and the (high-margin) gum and “candy” business.

In some ways the trajectory of Minick-Scokalo has been even more bizarre. Originally from Procter & Gamble, she was parachuted into Cadbury in 2007 as global commercial director, then made head of European operations in late 2008. The graft didn’t take: after seven months in the new job, she was fired and Ricou took over. But that wasn’t the end of the story. By spring this year, she was back at her old job – well almost – helping to fuse Cadbury chocolate culture with Kraft’s. Evidently it has proved pretty immiscible.

And that’s not the only evidence of the post-merger fabric coming unknitted. Look around and you will find painfully few senior Cadbury executives still in command. Trevor Bond, who used to be in charge of Cadbury in the UK, has become Kraft overseer in Europe and now takes on some of Ricou’s role; there’s also Marcus Grasso in Brazil, and Mouli Venkatesan and Narayan Sundararaman in India.

One intriguing survivor is Mark Reckitt, formerly Cadbury’s chief strategy officer – who played a key role in integrating the two operations after the merger. Formally, Reckitt left in July. But he’s back in a consultancy role, one day a week, managing the shop at Green & Black, the organic chocolate division. It would be no surprise to find Reckitt – in due course – heading a management buyout of the operation. It’s difficult to see what alternative fate awaits a premium organic chocolate brand tucked among all those processed foods.

Irene Rosenfeld, Kraft chief executive and the takeover’s architect, will shortly be visiting these shores for the first time since the merger. On her agenda will be some factory visits and a bit of political schmoozing. It sounds as if she’s just in time to deal with a few unscheduled senior management problems as well. No doubt Rosenfeld will pass off Minick-Scokalo and Ricou as transitional management whose time had come to an end. I’m not sure Kraft shareholders will agree with her, though. Too much command and control from Northfield, Illinois would be my verdict.

I’ll keep you posted.


Tamara Minick-Scokalo resurfaces as Kraft’s European confectionery chief

February 4, 2010

I’m reliably informed that the “senior role” at Kraft being taken up by former Cadbury European chief  Tamara Minick-Scokalo is head of European confectionery.

She will therefore be the pivotal figure in integrating Kraft’s existing product range – principally Toblerone and Milka – with the newly acquired brands at Cadbury.

Readers of this blog may recall that she left Cadbury in slightly mysterious circumstances at the beginning of last July. An American with 20 years experience in Procter marketing, Minick-Scokalo moved to Europe a few years back (she is based in Geneva) and took on the top marketing/general management roles at US wine maker E&J Gallo, then Elizabeth Arden. Two years as head of global commerce at Cadbury Schweppes followed. She afterwards became European president of the demerged Cadbury confectionery operation, in January 2009. As such, Minick-Scokalo sat on the Cadbury executive board, reported directly to chief executive Todd Stitzer, and had control over Cadbury’s confectionery operations in both East and West Europe: that is, over 10,000 employees, €1bn annual sales and numerous factories.

But Stitzer, up to this point her champion, let her go after only six months in what appears to have been a selective senior management cull designed to cut costs.

How fortuitous then, that Kraft should launch a takeover bid for Cadbury in September and, having sown up the deal a few days ago, hire Minick-Scokalo to mastermind the brands’ integration from March 1. Whatever else may be wrong with the corporate “merger” (Warren Buffett is the expert on that matter, not me) integration of the two confectionery operations in Europe looks like an obvious fit. Cadbury, outside the chocolate-gobbling UK, is a patchwork quilt in need of further rationalisation; Kraft, on the other hand, already has strong Euro brands in Milka, Toblerone and Terry’s.

I do hope the senior managers who stay on at Cadbury (the top three having already quit) were nice to Minick-Scokalo before she left. Ignasi Ricou, who succeeded Minick-Scokalo as Cadbury president of Europe, and Phil Rumbol, UK marketing director, will no doubt be polishing their CVs just in case.

I imagine she will also have a hugely enhanced fan club in the marketing services world. Ogilvy, for example, handles the Toblerone brand and JWT does Kraft corporate advertising. Fallon need not lose all hope, however. Minick-Scokalo championed the ‘Gorilla’ advertising campaign.


Minick-Scokalo’s star in the ascendant after Pearson picks her boss as next CEO?

October 3, 2012

What now for upwardly mobile executive Tamara Minick-Scokalo? I ask because her immediate boss, John Fallon, has just emerged as the future chief executive of Pearson, owner of – among other things – the Financial Times and Penguin.

When last encountered on this blog, Minick-Scokalo – for most of her career a Procter & Gamble executive, but latterly occupying high-octane posts at Cadbury and Kraft – had managed to secure a plum job at Pearson as president of the Europe, Middle East, Africa and Caribbean elements of its international education business. She reported directly to Fallon, who was chief executive of all areas of the business outside the USA.

In one sense the choice of Fallon to succeed Majorie Scardino, CEO of Pearson for the last 16 years, is a great surprise. He’s not even on the main Pearson board yet. What’s more he’s essentially a marcoms man, having served as director of corporate affairs at Powergen before joining Pearson in 1997, and in a variety of comms roles in the public sector before that. The more usual recruiting ground for FTSE 100 company chief executives is the finance department. And, as it happens, Pearson has the perfect paper candidate: Rona Fairhead, chief executive of Financial Times Group. Right age (about 50, the same age as Fallon); right sex; right background, as former chief financial officer of Pearson; and already a main board member to boot.

So why Fallon? Look at his record. It cannot be an accident that in the five years he occupied Minick-Scokalo’s current role, and the four since in which he has been chief executive of the division, international education has become the mainstay of Pearson’s reputation – not to mention its credibility with shareholders. For once, I cannot put it better than the company statement on the subject:

“With more than 15,000 people in 70 countries, this division is fundamental to Pearson’s growth strategy. Under John’s leadership, international education sales have increased from £322m to £1.4bn and profits from £12m to almost £200m in the past decade.”

It should be added that Fallon has also demonstrated a shrewd talent for acquisitions  – a reassuring quality in any future leader of a global company. These include the Wall Street English education business and the China-based Global Education and Technology Group. By way of perspective, profits across the ramshackle Pearson empire  as a whole totalled £942m in 2011.

Fallon seems likely to continue Scardino’s strategy of pruning Pearson’s over-extended interests – which at one time included investment bank Lazards, one of the best vineyards in the world and Madame Tussauds. Next on the chopping board may be the Financial Times itself. Certainly Fallon did nothing to reassure anxious hacks on the subject. When pressed on whether his appointment makes it more likely that Pearson will seek to dispose of the FT Group, he merely observed: “I very much recognise and value the FT as a valuable part of the company.” I’ll take that as a yes then, particularly from a former PR man. One more reason, perhaps, why Fairhead – very much at the heart of the FT – didn’t get the top job.

But what’s bad news for the FT may be very good news for Minick-Scokalo’s career prospects. She seems in prime position to claim Fallon’s former hot seat. Let’s put it this way: if she doesn’t get the job, she will probably be disappointed enough to leave Pearson’s employ.


Will Cadbury’s Bond quit Kraft in the wake of Clarke’s defection to Premier Foods?

July 14, 2011

The City has given Mike Clarke, Premier Foods’ incoming chief executive, the most rousing welcome imaginable: a 35% increase in the beleaguered conglomerate’s share price.

Maybe institutional investors were simply cocking a snook at his predecessor, Bob Schofield, who saddled the company with a mountain of increasingly unmanageable debt. But I don’t think so.

Clarke comes well recommended as a capable pair of hands, and for good reason. A former Coca-Cola and Reebok man, he has run Kraft’s $12bn European operation since early 2009. As such, he was entrusted with the delicate and difficult task of hitching Northfield Illinois’s lumbering HumVee to Cadbury’s Roller – something he achieved with surprising adroitness, given the circumstances.

Clarke’s departure will not be welcomed by the dwindling number of Cadbury executives who opted to stay on, post-merger. His successor Tim Cofer, who took over the confectionery division in the wake of Tamara Minick-Scokalo’s unscheduled departure last year, is seen as a bit of a Kraft clone who doesn’t really “get” Europe.

More materially – I’m told – Cadbury’s most senior remaining executive, Trevor Bond, coveted the top job given to Cofer. Bond, who used to be in charge of Cadbury’s UK operation, initially made a successful transition to overseeing Kraft’s European division. But with the career ladder wrenched away from him, he may well feel it’s time to turn his back on life in Zurich and return to his Birmingham roots.

If he goes, will the last Cadbury executive standing please switch off the light?


Why is the head of Cadbury Europe quitting?

June 30, 2009

Tamara Minick-ScokaloTamara Minick-Scokalo, head of Cadbury Europe, is leaving the company at the end of July. That much we know for a fact. The more interesting question is why.

According to Cadbury ceo Todd Stitzer, the departure is no more than a delayering exercise aimed at surmounting the “cost challenge” belabouring us all in these straitened times. Ignasi Ricou, currently head of Cadbury commercial operations Europe, looks like being the gainer. He will become president while retaining his commercial functions.

But wait a minute, wasn’t Minick-Scokalo Todd’s blue-eyed girl? That’s certainly what the P&G-bred marketing executive was billed as. She joined only two and a half years ago, from Elizabeth Arden, as global commercial chief and was catapulted to president of Europe last January.

It’s strange, even careless, to let your head of Europe go after six months in the post. Perhaps there were personal reasons? Perhaps she wanted to move on? Maybe. In which case it’s a curious coincidence that her departure has been wrapped up in a management reshuffle that also involves the legal department.

At any event, Fallon London (of ‘Gorilla’ and twitching eyebrows fame) should watch its back. She was the agency’s biggest champion.


Rumbol and Sleight departures flag up threat to UK-centric marketers

April 28, 2010

Are the imminent departures of high-profile marketers Phil Rumbol and Cathryn Sleight, from Cadbury and Coca-Cola GB respectively, by any chance related? In one important respect they most certainly are: both are casualties of globalisation. The corporate circumstances may be different, but the underlying cause has been the same.

Cadbury had its destiny decided for it by the deus ex machina of corporate takeover. A successful global company with a premier-league set of brands and high-octane growth prospects in emerging markets, it nevertheless had significant vulnerabilities – particularly in Europe – which Kraft was able to exploit with the seductive promise of greater efficiencies and economies of scale should the two companies “merge”.

Coca-Cola has reacted to similar cost inefficiencies in its mature European operations by embarking on an internally generated “rationalisation” programme which will reduce its ten existing European business units to four. Coke is in no way a potential takeover target, but may well be reacting to investor pressure.

In the words of Dominique Reiniche, president of Coca-Cola Europe: “The changes we are making will simplify the way we operate in all areas of the business. This will drive efficiency by enabling us to be faster to market and to increase the scale of our activities across Europe.” He does not mention shareholders, but we can be pretty certain they will be gratified by the extra margins generated. Perhaps coincidentally (given his hostility to the Cadbury bid), Warren Buffett – near enough the world’s wealthiest man – is a significant investor in both Kraft and Coke.

One side-effect of both company restructures has been to subordinate national marketing units to a new pan-European marketing management team. As will be seen, that has implications for ambitious UK marketers – not all of them positive.

In the Kraft/Cadbury case, things could have turned out well for Rumbol had he chosen to toe the new corporate line. Far from being made redundant (unlike many senior colleagues), he was slated for promotion to a new pan-European marketing role. The only problem was (so we are told), Rumbol’s new job would be based in Zurich and he did not wish to relocate his family there. So, he hasn’t… What may also have troubled him was that the new role was in some ways more narrowly defined than his present one. Its remit was chocolate (now under the auspices of former Cadbury executive Tamara Minick-Scokalo), to the exclusion of the gum and boiled sweets sectors.

As for the role of Coca-Cola GB marketing director – Sleight’s fiefdom since 2006 – it has been axed. The function will now be folded into a broader role operating out of NWEN, the new pan-European unit consisting of Iberia, Germany, North West Europe and “Nordics” headed by Sanjay Guha. Guha will assume the title marketing and Olympics director, NWEN; currently he is Coca-Cola GB president. Sleight is expected to leave the company.

As it happens, I don’t think either casualty will have much difficulty finding another job. Sleight has been credited with the UK launch of Coke Zero, the company’s most successful piece of carbonates new product development in over two decades; and has also superintended the fortunes of Glaceau Vitamin Water (which, for all my reservations about its positioning, has done quite nicely thank you).

As for Rumbol, he had already made a name for himself as the Stella client, at a time when that brand still produced great advertising. What he has since done at Cadbury will, however, have immeasurably increased his credit. He helped to launch the confectionery giant’s first foray into chewing gum (ironically, one of the reasons that margin-hungry Kraft began showing an interest). And he has been the impresario behind some of the most noted advertising in recent times, to wit Fallon’s “Gorilla” and “Eyebrows”. Move over Simon Thompson (who presided over a run of great advertising at Honda, a few years ago).

I’m less sanguine about the prospects of home-loving UK marketers in general, though – especially if working in large corporations. The tide is against you, unless you’re prepared to wield your passport more freely.

PS. Rumbol may have opted out of a new life at Kraft Cadbuy, but Ignasi Ricou, president of Cadbury Europe, is to stay on. He will be president of sales, Kraft Europe, with special responsibility for gum and candy.


Diverted Boulton makes safe landing at Nationwide

July 9, 2009

James BoultonJames Boulton, the ex-HSBC marketing director and brother of Sky TV presenter, Adam, has finally landed at Nationwide after a bizarre mini-Odyssey involving British Airways.

In circumstances still not entirely clear, Boulton seems to have quit HSBC at the beginning of the year in the belief that he had a job in the bag – a good one too – at BA as global marketing director, following in the footsteps of Tiffany Hall.

Only to discover that he did not. Having led him up the garden path, BA either withdrew the offer or halted the process. Boulton had been applying for a job that would no longer exist, due to a management “rationalisation”…

It’s another example of just how ruthless companies have become in slashing key personnel once they are deemed too expensive. Equally unsettling was Cadbury’s recent decision to get rid of its European president, Tamara Minick-Scokalo, only six months after elevating her from group commercial director.

Boulton may not have got the CMO role he was evidently looking for after HSBC declined to expand his duties (I note his successor, Brendan Cook, has been given additional responsibilities – product development and research). But he could have done a lot worse than end up at Nationwide.

In effect, he takes over the high-profile position occupied for many years by Peter Gandolfi, although the title, like much else, is different. Plenty has changed at Nationwide under the leadership of Graham Beale, including most of the key personnel. That’s only to be expected. The sleepy mega-mutual is well positioned (unlike almost any other financial services organisation) to benefit from the Credit Crunch. Big mutuals – friendly, conservative and, above all, reliable (it says in the script) – are back in fashion. And since Nationwide is by far and away the best branded and biggest – at over half the sector’s capitalisation –  it should be able to exploit this new mood much better than anyone else.

Beale has, perhaps justifiably, been whingeing about the ridiculous capital ratios (money kept back as security) being imposed on his organisation (given it is not particularly reliant on the wholesale money market, exposure to which has been a major cause of vulnerability). I notice this has not prevented Nationwide from launching an eye-catching 125% mortgage aimed at attracting people in negative equity who want to move.

Boulton, with his packaged goods skills acquired at Unilever and PepsiCo, has a promising canvas to work on.


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