Judge Blasts Hershey Trust Board

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Judge Blasts Hershey Trust Board

HERSHEY, Pa. -- A Pennsylvania judge blasted the Hershey Trust Co. for failing to uphold the intentions of its philanthropist founder in the wake of its thwarted bid to sell its controlling stake in Hershey Foods Corp. earlier this year.

Dauphin County Orphans Court Judge Warren Morgan, in a written opinion dated Oct. 16, said that members of the Hershey Trust are "distant and disconnected from the charitable interests they serve." He called for an unspecified "reconstituting" of the $5.5-billion trust, which manages the Milton Hershey School and other entities in the Pennsylvania town of Hershey, Reuters reported.

The opinion could add firepower to community groups that continue to push for changes at the Hershey Trust Co. even after it decided on Sept. 17 to bend to public pressure and drop its controversial plan to seek a buyer for its 77-percent voting-share block of the nation's largest candy maker.

The candy company makes Hershey's, Reese's and Jolly Rancher brand candies.

The potential sale attracted a $12-billion bid from the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co., the leading gum maker, and another joint bid of about $10.2 billion from Swiss food titan Nestle SA and Cadbury Schweppes.

The judge expressed his opinions as part of a technical ruling that dismissed his previous injunction barring the sale of the Hershey Foods stake, saying the injunction was "moot" since the sale process was terminated.

But in issuing the ruling, the judge also ordered the trust to give "prompt written notice" to the Pennsylvania Attorney General's office of any intention to sell the controlling stake, a move requested by that office, the report said.