WBD poaches rival manager

Related tags Groupe danone Management

Wimm-Bill-Dann Foods has confirmed the creation of a new top
management position with the appointment of former Danone executive
Jacques Ioffe as deputy CEO for Strategy and Business Development -
a move that boosts the company's growing number of top management
to have carved out their careers in western Europe.

The company said that the appointment reflects its increasing focus on enhancing operating efficiency and management of resources through the integration of its growing number of group subsidiaries. In recent months WBD's financial results have continued to be hampered by growing operational costs, which, despite strong growth in sales, has trimmed back the company's profitability considerably.

Ioffe comes to WBD​ from Groupe Danone, where he headed up Danone's Russian operations. He was first approached by Groupe Danone in 1995 following their acquisition of the Bolshevik confectionary factory. As the Chief Executive Officer of Bolshevik, Ioffe was responsible for turning the company into a fully fledged subsidiary of Danone, run to the same standards as other Western companies.

Danone had been in lengthy talks to take over WBD, but the discussions ended last year, after the French food giant decided that it was wanted to amicably end the negotiations. During this time the upper management of both companies were in close dialogue, which invariably led to close relations.

"We have known Mr Ioffe for a number of years and we believe that he is one of those rare specialists who combine a Western MBA level education, experience of working for top Western firms and knowledge of the Russian market and food industry,"​ Wimm-Bill-Dann chief executive Sergei Plastinin said. "We believe that he is the ideal candidate to help us develop the necessary management skills, establish the clear division of responsibilities and foster the strong corporate culture needed to fully integrate the group. We hope that this will be achieved also through the creation of a corporate university."

Ioffe was born in St Petersburg, Russia, where he educated until he moved to France to complete an MB. Following this he held senior positions at McKinsey, Societe Generale and Renault in Paris.

Only last month WBD announced the appointment of Francesco Giuffredi as group head of production. Like Ioffe, Giuffredi's career was also carved out in western Europe. Before coming to work with WBD he had spent 23 years with Italian food giant Parmalat, where he had risen to the position of head of production.

As is the case with Ioffe, Giuffredi will be concentrating on integrating the companies newly acquired subsidiaries into a more cohesive operation. Upon his appointment he said he would be focusing on cost effectiveness and synergies in an effort to enhance productivity.

These two most recent managerial appointments are part of a direct policy by the company to employ personnel with western European experience in the food processing industry.

"Many of our top management team have come from a background where they have at least spent some time working in a western European environment,"​ said WBD spokesperson Marian Kagan. "The company feels that it is a good idea for management with experience outside the Russian market to bring along new ideas and to integrate them into the operations. Such moves help towards making the company both more efficient and more profitable in the long run."

Jury Andreevich Neznanov, senior consultant for the food department in the Russian Ministry of Agriculture agrees with Kagan's views about food industry managers from western Europe importing ideas into the Russian sector."The fact that WBD has appointed European experts is part of its aim to improve communication and dialogue with European countries,"​ said Nezanov. "In Russia there are highly proficient managers and technologists within the food sector. Take any dairy plant, for example, and you will find highly skilled staff throughout the operation."

"On the other hand, Russian staff are poorly informed about foreign innovations. For this reason foreign experts with established contacts and knowledge of the western European market are invaluable in an effort to refine supplies of raw material and equipment provision. There is also the fact that, in order to attract western investments, it is easier to negotiate through managers with a knowledge of western European markets."

It has been no secret that for the past couple few years WBD has been seeking further investment from western European companies. With the two most recent upper managerial appointments it is likely that, in addition to increasing company efficiencies, prospects for future dialogue with outside investors will also be strengthened.

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