Back-Stabbing and Threats of a “Suicide Parachute” at Hershey

Thanks to a historic gift by M.H.S.’s founder, the Hershey Trust Company has an endowment of $12.3 billion and an ownership stake in Hershey Company, giving it control of the candy dynasty behind Kit Kat, Reese’s and Hershey’s Kisses, to name a few. With Hershey now the subject of a $23 billion takeover bid, the trust is enduring one of its periodic turns in the klieg lights, and the timing is hardly ideal. A leaked internal memo has revealed back-stabbing, allegations of insider trading and the threat of something called a “suicide parachute.” All of this is happening as a dubious deal to buy a golf course continues to reverberate and as critics charge that members of the trust’s board are more interested in earning hundreds of thousands of dollars on Hershey-related boards than in helping needy children. In the last 12 months the trust has spent more than $4 million on lawyers to investigate charges of misconduct that board members have lodged against one another. In one instance, Robert F. Cavanaugh, then the board’s chairman, was accused of improperly securing a summer job for his son with JKMilne Asset Management, one of the trust’s outside investment companies.

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