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Report: Hershey Trust under pressure from AG’s office; Mondelez still seeking deal

Talks between the Hershey Trust Co. and the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office over governance reforms are continuing, officials confirmed today, while media reports suggest talk of a Hershey Co. buyout are not dead.

The Wall Street Journal today is reporting that the AG’s office is threatening to take the trustees to court if they fail to carry out changes requested by the agency, which the paper says include changes in board composition and compensation.

The trust is The Hershey Co.’s main stockholder, controlling more than 80 percent of the company’s voting shares. Under Pennsylvania law, the state Attorney General would have a say in any change of ownership.

Hershey’s board on June 30 rejected a $23 billion purchase proposal from Illinois-based Mondelez International, a Kraft Foods spinoff whose brands include Oreo Cookies.

Three members of the trust’s board also sit on the board of Dauphin County-based Hershey Co., trust spokesman Kent Jarrell confirmed.

The WSJ also is reporting that Mondelez has not dropped its pursuit.

Hershey spokesman Jeff Beckman said this morning that he could not speak to that issue.

“You would have to ask them what their plans are,” Beckman told CPBJ.

Mondelez spokesman Michael Mitchell acknowledged the existence of the original offer, but declined to comment on whether the company is still interested in Hershey.

“We believe that situations like these are handled best through private communications between companies. So we will not comment further at this time,” Mitchell said.

Trust issues

Regarding talks with the AG’s office, Jarrell confirmed that they are ongoing and that the trust hopes for a resolution, but “that is all I can say,” he concluded.

Milton Hershey, who founded the chocolate company that bears his name, established the trust in 1905. The 10-member panel has responsibility for the Milton Hershey School Trust, The M.S. Hershey Foundation Trust and the Hershey Cemetery Trust.

AG’s office spokesman Jeffrey Johnson also confirmed talks with the trust, though not the specifics of their content.

“We are working to make sure the mission of Milton Hershey is fulfilled. Our goal is to achieve a long-term solution that will ensure that occurs,” Johnson said.

“Aside from that, I can only say that our investigation of this matter is ongoing. Our role in the process is to ensure that charitable assets are being used appropriately.”

Roger DuPuis
Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com.

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