Sara Lee Selects Leader for Coffee Spinoff

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Sara Lee Selects Leader for Coffee Spinoff


DOWNERS GROVE, Ill. -- Sara Lee Corp. is making changes to its executive team as it prepares to spin off its CoffeeCo business in the first half of 2012.

According to the company, Michiel Herkemij has been appointed executive vice president and CEO of its International Beverage business. He will also serve as the CEO of CoffeeCo once its spinoff from Sara Lee is completed next year. Herkemij will officially assume the title no later than Dec. 1 of this year.

He joins Sara Lee from Heineken N.V. He currently serves as president and CEO of Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma -- a beer manufacturer in Mexico with six breweries and 18,000 employees, acquired by Heineken in 2010. Previously, he was CEO of Heineken’s Nigerian subsidiary, a publicly listed company.

Prior to Heineken, Herkemij held multiple managerial positions with Royal Friesland Campina N.V., a leading dairy company, where he worked in the Benelux region, China and Nigeria. He began his business career with British American Tobacco in the U.K. and Iberia (Spain and Portugal) and ABN AMRO Bank N.V.

The board tapped Herkemij because of his track record of leading complex international organizations, his experience across multiple consumer goods businesses and his unique perspective, as well as his strong executive and personal qualities.

"We are very excited to have Michiel serve as the leader of our CoffeeCo business," said Jan Bennink, Sara Lee Corp.’s executive chairman. "He is the right leader to bring CoffeeCo to new heights and unleash the company's true potential due to his extensive international experience in Asia, Africa, South America and Europe, his proven ability to manage top-performing teams, and his very strong marketing and sales background."

Herkemij added, "I believe the CoffeeCo business, with its premier brands and thousands of professionals, is a strong business with tremendous potential. I look forward to working with this great coffee and tea team as, together, we build the global agenda for the future and work to create great value for our stockholders."

Herkemij succeeds Frank van Oers, a 16-year company veteran who has been heading the International Beverage and Bakery segment since 2005. Van Oers will leave Sara Lee in early 2012.

"We thank Frank van Oers for his many contributions to the International Beverage and Bakery business," said Bennink. "Under Frank's leadership, we increased operational efficiencies, expanded our coffee and tea business into key geographies and made great progress in preparing for the upcoming spinoff of CoffeeCo into a successful publicly traded company."

Sara Lee made headlines in January when it decided to split into two companies after failing to agree to takeover offers. The company has announced a plan to spin off its meat business as a new public company by early 2012, as CSNews Online reported.

In announcing its fiscal year 2011 fourth-quarter results, Bennink said the spinoff is moving ahead on target. "During the last six months, we have made significant strides toward creating two pure-play companies, which are poised for success," Bennink said earlier this month.

"Our objective of building two simpler, faster and more entrepreneurial businesses is being realized. We have defined the organizational framework for our new companies and are continuing to build and restructure our teams for the future," Bennink continued. "Through our strategic divestments, we are achieving our objective of streamlining the portfolios to provide the best foundation for strong and focused businesses moving forward."