For Wrigley, CEO Perez Is a Life Saver

William D. Perez of Wrigley is the fourth name on Cramer’s list of the top transformational CEOs. All week, he’s highlighted greats like Fred Hassan of Schering-Plough, Mark Hurd of Hewlett-Packard, and Dave Cote of Honeywell, who have taken lagging companies and turned them into success stories. Perez’s story is a bit different.

When Perez arrived at Wrigley, the company wasn’t suffering so much as stagnating. Competitors like Cadbury and Hershey were going global, while Wrigley was doing just enough to get by. As Cramer says, “There hadn't been a new idea here since the Doublemint Twins giving us two mints in one.”

But Perez, who’d successfully handled a family business like Wrigley for 34 years, was able to pump some life into the company without stepping on Chairman – and family member – Bill Wrigley’s toes. He took over daily operations and financials by introducing a host of new products – 80 in the last year alone, Cramer says. Now, brands like Orbit, Extra and Life Saver have taken off, providing Wall Street with what it loves most: accelerating revenue growth.

Bottom Line: The era of disappointing lack of growth and earnings that fall short of estimates is over, Cramer says, and the era of upside surprises has begun. While the stock seems expensive at 25 times next year's earnings, he thinks that's because the estimates are too low. And it's time to start proving that you can buy the stock and chew gum at the same time.

Questions? Comments?