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.

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