Life’s like a box of chocs

Cadbury FD Andrew Bonfield

Kraft has finally forced a deal on its takeover of Cadbury. But what does the
future hold for Andrew Bonfield, the FD of what was the UK’s biggest

What’s happened?

It was Forest Gump who said that: “Life’s like a box of chocolates”, but it’s
anybody’s guess whether a box of Cadbury Milk Tray holds the same mystery.
Especially now that Kraft, the massive US food group, has got its way and is set
to take over the FTSE 100 chocolate maker.

The battle for Cadbury has dominated the headlines. The company first
resisted, claiming the Kraft offer had not been realistic. But, after counter
offers and the entry of other suitors, the Cadbury board finally relented. The
battle would have thrown Bonfield into the heart of the taut and complex
negotiations over the company’s valuation. He would have been at the heart of
the strategy that saw the board consistently reject offers before last week’s
agreement. He also now finds himself on a board facing howls of disapproval.
Some of that dissent is sentimental. Others are looking at the price agreed by
the board and openly question the value achieved.

That kind of public attention is difficult to bear. Not least because
Bonfield only joined Cadbury in April of last year from Bristol Myers Squibb,
the pharmaceuticals giant. But he has plenty of big business experience. He was
CFO at BG Group, and CFO at GlaxoSmithKline.

Certainly there doesn’t seem to be much in common between pharma and
confectionary. But at least at Glaxo, he would have been around a company that
had a history of big M&A projects – that would have been invaluable.

What happens next?

In a funny way what happens to Bonfield next might must just depend on how
much opprobrium is heaped on the Cadbury board for pushing through with the
Kraft deal. Any number of commentators seem willing to heap criticism on the
deal out of injured national pride, while others, including large investors,
wondered publicly whether Cadbury had eked nearly enough shareholder value out
of the deal. Even Warren Buffet, “the world’s greatest investor”, let it be
known, he thought Kraft had got it wrong in committing so much equity to the
transaction. Everyone seemed to have an opinion and much of it wasn’t good.
That’s not the kind of attention any executive wants.

But not everyone is of the same opinion. If Bonfield follows other executives
out the door (and he’s unlikely to stick around to become a divisional FD at
Kraft) many believe his CV will be enhanced. One big City head hunter revealed
that, in his view, Bonfield will walk away looking like an attractive
recruitment prospect because the shareholders will still see value creation.
Plus, Kraft were highly resistant to improving the deal, so the improved offer
won by the Cadbury board will be viewed favourably.That said what Bonfield might
want for the time being is to be well away from the glare of publicity and
certainly a long way from any chocolate.

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