New Heinz owners pick leader

Bernardo Hees, who has been CEO at Burger King, is taking over as the top executive at H.J. Heinz Co.
Bernardo Hees, who has been CEO at Burger King, is taking over as the top executive at H.J. Heinz Co. (AP)

Bernardo Hees, who led Burger King, was named.

Posted: April 13, 2013

The partners buying Pittsburgh's H.J. Heinz Co. have chosen one of their own to take over as chief executive officer after the $28 billion sale goes through.

Bernardo Hees, who has been CEO of Burger King Worldwide Inc. and who previously ran a railroad and logistics company, will succeed Bill Johnson, according to an announcement Thursday.

Johnson's role after the sale of the company to Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital isn't clear. He has led Heinz for 15 years and will continue as chairman, president, and CEO through the transaction.

"3G Capital and Berkshire Hathaway expect to discuss with Mr. Johnson his interest in a continuing role with the company post closure following the shareholder meeting on April 30," according to the announcement.

The partners lauded Hees, 43, for his performance at Burger King, which is owned by 3G.

"Bernardo is a proven executive with an unparalleled track record of delivering results," said Alex Behring, managing partner at 3G, in a statement touting Burger King's earnings growth during Hees' tenure there.

"His combination of experience, leadership skills, and broad understanding of the food industry make him the ideal leader to drive the next chapter in Heinz's storied history," Behring said.

Hees, a Brazilian who is a partner in 3G and previously served as CEO of America Latina Logistica, Latin America's largest railroad and logistics company, said he planned to relocate to Pittsburgh.

His appointment is further evidence that Heinz will be an active investment for 3G, in contrast to Buffett's traditionally more passive approach. Hees was installed as CEO of Burger King after the firm bought the struggling hamburger chain in 2010.

The sale of Heinz is expected to close in either the second or third quarter.

In addition to the approval of shareholders, the deal needs to be signed off on by foreign regulators. Heinz has received antitrust clearance in the United States, Brazil, India, South Korea, Japan, and Israel.

This article contains information from the Associated Press.