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?