Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

How Tasty Baking's board changed after Pizzi's hiring

The snack-food maker added outside directors with consumer-products experience during the eight years of Charles Pizzi has run the company.

How Tasty Baking's board changed after Pizzi's hiring

Tasty Baking Co. had conducted a months-long national search before selecting Charles P. Pizzi as its president and chief executive officer eight years ago.

But as someone who had led the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce for 13 years, Pizzi was an unexpected pick to run a publicly held snack-food company.

The day Tasty Baking announced that Pizzi would succeed Carl S. Watts as CEO, its share price fell 3 percent. Stock analysts were decidedly lacking in their enthusiasm over the choice of a leader without food-industry experience.

As an insider in the city’s business circles, Pizzi had other credentials valued by Tasty Baking’s board, which at the time had a decided Philadelphia flavor.

Here’s a look at the people who hired Pizzi and the members of the board who must now deal with Tasty Baking’s crisis.

Three of those seven members who selected Pizzi were current or former Tasty Baking executives. One was a retired partner at Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young L.L.P., a big Philadelphia law firm. Another was G. Fred DiBona Jr., then the CEO of Independence Blue Cross, the Philadelphia region’s dominant health insurer, and himself the former head of the chamber of commerce.

The other two are still on the now nine-member Tasty Baking board: Judith M. von Seldeneck, chairman of Diversified Search Odgers Berndtson, a Philadelphia-based executive search firm; and Ronald J. Kozich, retired managing partner of the Philadelphia office of Ernst & Young L.L.P.

In a 2002 Inquirer article, von Seldeneck, who’s been on the board since 1991, defended the process Tasty Baking used to choose Pizzi. “We’re all directors of a public company,” she said. “We have a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders. You don’t put your pals in positions like this. I think we felt lucky to get Charlie, to tell you the truth.”

During Pizzi’s tenure, the makeup of the board has changed with the addition of six of the nine current members. Three of them came from outside the Philadelphia business community and all have the consumer-products company experience that Pizzi, now 60, lacked:

  • Mark G. Conish, executive vice president of global operations of Church & Dwight Co. Inc., the Princeton-based maker of Arm & Hammer cleaning products.
  • Mark J. Timbie, president of North American consumer foods for McCormick & Co. Inc., the Sparks, Md.-based spice producer.
  • David J. West, president and CEO of Hershey Co., the central Pennsylvania-based candy company.

Including Pizzi, who is also a director, the board now has six Philadelphia-area executives as members. Tasty Baking chairman James E. Ksansnak is the retired vice chairman of Aramark Corp., the $12.6 billion food-service giant based in Center City.

Another member is James E. Nevels, founder and chairman of The Swarthmore Group, a Center City investment advisory firm that manages about $1 billion in assets for institutional clients. He possesses the highest public profile, having served on the Philadelphia School Reform Commission that oversees the financially troubled Philadelphia School District from 2001 to 2007.

Finally, there is James C. Hellauer, now retired, who may be the most important board member given Tasty Baking’s current financial straits. During his career with The Colmen Group, a Wayne-based investment banking firm, Hellauer specialized in providing management services to troubled companies.

Mike Armstrong Inquirer Columnist
About this blog
Mike Armstrong blogs about Philadelphia corporations and business-related topics. Contact him at 215-854-2980. Reach Mike at marmstrong@phillynews.com.

Mike Armstrong Inquirer Columnist
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