Irene Rosenfeld, Chairman and CEO
Profile: Irene Blecker Rosenfeld was born in Westbury, N.Y., on May 3, 1953. The 59-year-old earned a BA in psychology, an MS in business and a PhD in marketing and statistics from Cornell University. She was appointed CEO of Kraft (NYSE:KFT) on June 26, 2006.
The Story: It takes a bold CEO to pursue the U.K.’s most iconic candy company over its management’s — and the British public’s — fervent objections. It’s an act of high-wire daring to do so over top Kraft shareholder Warren Buffett’s public objections. Yet Rosenfeld captured Cadbury in 2011 for the bargain price of $19.6 billion.
The “Oracle of Omaha,” whose Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK.A,B) owned more than 9% of KFT, blasted the Cadbury deal at the time, quipping to CNBC that the deal made him feel “poor” and that he would block it if he could. He subsequently sold 31.5 million shares of Kraft — 23% of his total holdings — over the “dumb” deal.
Rosenfeld was unfazed, trusting in her three decades of food-and-beverage industry experience to steer the right course for the company and its shareholders. The eventual outcome has vindicated Rosenfeld’s decision.
Buffett may have sold KFT, but other investors bought — and the stock rose nearly 16%. When the deal was done, Sanford Bernstein analyst Andrew Wood described it as having “the lowest multiple of any major M&A deal in the global-food space in well over a decade.”
Today, Cadbury is the crown jewel in Kraft’s $31 billion international snack-foods group, which is set to split into one of two separate companies by year’s end. (The other is KFT’s $17 billion North American grocery business.) Rosenfeld will remain chairman and CEO of the confectionery-and-snacks company, which will be called Mondelez International.