The chairman of JAB Holding Co., who pushed for its acquisition of Minnesota-based Caribou Coffee and other popular food brands, resigned suddenly amid a reported disagreement with other executives.
Bart Becht, 62, stepped down Monday and will retire this year, said JAB, a privately held firm that is controlled by the billionaire Reimann family of Germany.
Becht has also served on the board of Brooklyn Center-based Caribou, which JAB acquired for $340 million in 2012. JAB then spent more than $50 billion over the past five years to acquire restaurant chains and food producers, including well-known U.S. names like Dr Pepper, Krispy Kreme and Panera.
In 2014, JAB added Einstein Noah Restaurant Group Inc., operator of a chain of bagel restaurants, to its holdings and in 2017 it oversaw Caribou’s purchase of the Bruegger’s Bagels chain. Caribou’s chief executive, Sarah Spiegel, also leads Einstein Noah for JAB.
The Financial Times reported, citing two people with direct knowledge of the decision, that Becht failed to convince other JAB executives to throttle back its acquisition activity and concentrate instead on improving the operations of its existing businesses.
“After almost 40 years in the branded consumer business, I have decided it is time to refocus my activities and retire,” Becht said in a statement Monday.
Becht was one of three partners who oversaw JAB for the Reimanns and had operational experience as the former chief executive of Reckitt Benckiser, a U.K. firm that owns household and personal product brands like Lysol, Woolite, Clearasil and Mucinex.
JAB will still be led by the two other partners, Peter Harf, who is close to the Reimanns, and Olivier Goudet, who is also the former chief executive at Mars Inc. and current chairman of Anheuser-Busch InBev, the global beer producer that includes Budweiser.
The firm is bringing in three other executives, all with experience at either Mars or AB InBev. Fabien Simon will be the group’s chief financial officer, Ricard Rittes will lead expansion into emerging markets by opening a new office in Brazil and Jacek Szarzynski will be lead operating partner for the newly created Pret Panera Holding Co.
That unit will combine the St. Louis-based Panera chain with the U.K.-based sandwich chain Pret a Manger, which operates in nine countries.