Warren Buffett stepping down from the Kraft Heinz board hasn’t “really changed anything,” Bernardo Hees, the ketchup maker’s CEO said Friday.
Hees’ comments came in response to a question from CNBC’s Becky Quick about whether Buffett’s departure would allow the company to make a hostile bid.
“I don’t think Warren leaving the board really changed anything,” Hees said, on “Squawk Box.”
“He already acknowledged he wants to decrease his travel commitments. We’re actually very lucky … he [stayed] with us for five years on the board.”
David A. Grogan | CNBC Bernardo Hees, CEO, Kraft Heinz
Kraft Heinz is backed by private equity firm 3G Capital, known for its aggressive approach to cost-cutting and dealmaking. Its business model has led analysts to speculate the food giant needs a large acquisition to find growth where it cannot create it on its own by brand building. That reputation, though, has led some to believe the company needs the ability to go hostile to get a deal done.
Buffett is known to be against hostile takeovers. He announced in February his plans to step down from the Kraft board to decrease his travel commitments.
Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, remains Kraft’s largest shareholder. The Kraft board said it intends to nominate Alexandre Van Damme, a board member of Anheuser-Busch Inbev and Restaurant Brands International, to succeed Buffett as a director.
Hees also stressed Kraft’s ability to create value, pushing back against the assumption it would seal a deal by going hostile.
“Our track record for decades with people that partnered with us has been to create really long-term value … so we don’t see the point of not being welcome,” Hees said.
Last year, Kraft approached Dove-soapmaker Unilever about an acquisition, but the offer was rebuffed in a public dust-up that Buffett took to CNBC to clarify did not count as a hostile approach.
Kraft executives, meanwhile, have become more vocal over the past year, highlighting to investors and the media their commitment to investing in brands, as well as slashing costs.
Its stock is down roughly 38 percent over the past year.