On Sunday morning in London, people close to Kraft Heinz said the US company was determined to make a series of concessions, including taking on Unilever's name after the merger as well as offering guarantees to maintain R&D investments and headquarters in the Netherlands, UK and the US.
But Mr Behring, Mr Lemann and Mr Buffett received a letter from Mr Polman outlining his hostility to a deal. They decided then it would be better to retreat sooner rather than later. "It was a surgical decision," said a person close to the trio. "There is little space for emotions in these circumstances."
At 5:31pm a joint statement by Unilever and Kraft Heinz put to rest any hopes of a deal. It said: Kraft Heinz has the utmost respect for the culture, strategy and leadership of Unilever.
Although it would be foolish to rule out a 3G-inspired comeback of Kraft Heinz for Unilever, the Brazilian management cannot return for at least six months under UK takeover rules.
The ultimate decision to pull the plug on the effort was made by the two key billionaires backing the transaction — Messrs Buffett and Lemann, who wanted to avoid a potentially dirty and public takeover battle.
One person close to Unilever said: "From the lunch, Kraft Heinz should have got the impression that they had got it all wrong."
Another says 3G and its portfolio companies have a clever way of doing business: "Extreme aggression with a smile, so we gave them extreme rejection with a smile."
Undeterred by defeat, 3G's Mr Lemann and his lieutenants are already planning their next move. A $15bn war chest is at their disposal, ready to hunt the next consumer goods monster.
—Additional reporting by Jim Pickard
Fresh from fending off Kraft, Unilever to review its options; shares rise
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