The chief executive of Hershey Co, the chocolate company that Oreo cookie-maker Mondelez International Inc tried to acquire earlier this year, is preparing to step down by next summer, the company said in a release.
The move comes less than three months after the charitable trust that controls Hershey reached a major reform agreement with its overseer, the Pennsylvania attorney general's office, raising questions about its future plans for the company.
Hershey's board of directors is already preparing for the resignation of CEO John Bilbrey, and has formed a committee to find a successor, the people said.
Bilbrey is stepping down to spend more time with his family, one of the people said. He plans to remain non-executive chairman on Hershey's board, that person added.
Bilbrey was named CEO of Hershey in 2011, after serving in various senior roles at the company since 2003. He added the position of Chairman in 2015. Prior to Hershey, Bilbrey worked for 22 years at consumer company Procter & Gamble Co.
Following its initial spurned bid in June, Mondelez CEO Irene Rosenfeld reapproached Bilbrey in August, indicating that Mondelez would be willing to offer $115 a share, Reuters reported at the time.
Hershey responded to that offer saying it would not be willing to enter into deal negotiations for an offer of less than $125 per share.
The Hershey trust was set up by the company's founder over a century ago to fund and run a school for underprivileged children. It holds 81 percent of the company's voting stock, and so a sale is not possible without its approval.
About two-thirds of its $12 billion in assets are in Hershey stock.
Following a dispute with the Pennsylvania attorney general over its governance policy, the trust in July agreed to expand its board from 10 members to 13, and for five members to resign by year's end. With one trustee having resigned shortly before that agreement, that leaves a total of nine openings.
Even if the trust does decide to explore a sale of Hershey, the attorney general can thwart such plans. The trust put Hershey up for sale in 2002, and the attorney general's office successfully petitioned a court to block the offer amid local community protests.
Pennsylvania's attorney general seat remains in flux, with the attorney general Kathleen Kane having stepped down this summer following a criminal conviction. She was succeeded by her deputy, Bruce Castor, and the post is up for election in November.