Analysts have dubbed new Nestlé Rowntree MD Chris White a ‘blunder boss’ after he made an astonishing attack on his company’s track record.
White, who took over as MD in December, this week claimed the business was “in crisis” in a widely publicised interview.
He went on to claim that, although the regime he inherited had succeeded in producing award-winning ad campaigns, it had failed to generate extra sales. The Grocer’s last Top Products Survey (December 13, 2003) showed sales of KitKat were down 9%, while Aero fell over 13%.
In a thinly veiled swipe at former marketing director Andrew Harrison, who takes up his new post as UK MD of Müller Dairy in April, White also said the launch of Nestlé’s Double Cream bar had been “poorly executed” and the company had “missed opportunities such as getting into cereal bars”.
Analysts said they were “shocked” by White’s candour.
One said: “This would appear to have been a misjudgement of monumental proportion, almost on a par with Gerald Ratner’s gaffe. The general view is one of shock at this frankness and the nickname ‘blunder boss’ is being bandied about.
“But this is a serious issue and one he could end up regretting deeply. If the MD admits he doesn’t have confidence in what his company has been doing, why should anyone else?”
David Stoddart, a retail analyst with Teather & Greenwood, said there could have been a number of factors influencing White’s criticisms. “I work on the assumption there is a reason for someone making comments like these. He may have been aiming them at the advertising industry which makes his company’s ads, or at staff.”
A spokeswoman for Nestlé claimed White’s comments had been taken out of context.