Burger King chief beefs up Heinz leadership

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 13 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 13 April, 2013, 4:51am

Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and Jorge Paulo Lemann's 3G Capital said Bernardo Hees would become chief executive of HJ Heinz, the ketchup maker being bought by the billionaire investors.

Hees has been chief executive of Burger King Worldwide since 2010, the companies said yesterday. He is also a partner of 3G.

Berkshire and 3G reached a deal in February to buy Heinz for about US$23 billion, ending the independence of the Pittsburgh-based maker of condiments and baby food. 3G acquired Burger King in 2010 and took the fast-food chain public last year.

"Bernardo is a proven executive with an unparalleled track record of delivering results," Alex Behring, managing partner at 3G, said. "His combination of experience, leadership skills and broad understanding of the food industry make him the ideal leader to drive the next chapter in Heinz's storied history."

Bill Johnson, who has led Heinz since 1998, will remain chairman and chief executive until the deal is completed.

3G and Berkshire said they expected to discuss with Johnson his interest in a "continuing role" with the firm after the deal was completed.

Daniel Schwartz would take over as chief executive of Burger King, the Miami-based fast-food company said. He was previously chief financial officer.

Hees will remain chief executive of Burger King until the completion of the Heinz deal or July 1, whichever comes first. He will then become vice-chairman of the board of directors and remain on the executive committee, Burger King said.

Buffett, the second-richest man in the United States, has bet on consumer products with stock investments in Coca-Cola. His Omaha, Nebraska-based company also helped finance Mars' purchase of chewing gum maker Wrigley in 2008 and has units including See's Candies and Dairy Queen.

Buffett admired 3G's record with Burger King and expected Lemann's firm to oversee the operations of Heinz, he told CNBC in February. He called Lemann, Brazil's wealthiest man, a "long-time friend" and an "extraordinary manager" in a letter to shareholders last month.