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Tue, Nov 13, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Hershey reshuffles board in bid to halt stock's malaise

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

The chocolate maker Hershey, which replaced its chief executive last month, announced a reshuffling of its board of directors on Sunday as the charitable trust that controls the company stepped up efforts to lift Hershey's languishing stock.

Six board members quit after being asked for their resignation by the Hershey Trust, the company said in a statement, while two decided to leave on their own.

LeRoy Zimmerman, the chairman of the Hershey Trust board, said the charity, which manages the company's assets on behalf of the Milton Hershey School in Pennsylvania for underprivileged children, "has not been satisfied with company's recent results."

The trust controls 79 percent of Hershey's voting shares and favored a sale of the company in 2002, when the Wm Wrigley Jr Co offered US$12.5 billion to buy it out. But the trust ultimately rejected the bids amid fierce opposition from Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher and others. Hershey's market value is about US$9.3 billion.

Tim Reeves, a spokesman for the trust, said on Sunday that the company's decline in value over the last few years was "a very serious matter for the trust and for all shareholders."

In the last six months alone, Hershey shares have fallen 25 percent, hurt by higher dairy costs and competition from Mars Inc. Best known for candy like Hershey's Kisses and Reese's, the company has been trying with mixed success to cash in on the popularity of dark chocolate with brands like Scharffen Berger.

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