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McKinley Will Retire From Gerber Posts

May 28, 1987|DENISE GELLENE

William L. McKinley, the 63-year-old Gerber Products chairman and chief executive who ran the baby food company during the glass-shard scare last spring, abruptly announced his retirement Wednesday.

McKinley was succeeded as chief executive by Louis Goulet, 61, president and chief operating officer of the Fremont, Mich.-based firm. McKinley will continue as chairman of the nation's largest baby food company until July, when a new chairman will be named.

Under McKinley, Gerber drew wide attention for its refusal to recall baby food after scattered reports that glass was found in its jars. At one point, Gerber sued the state of Maryland for ordering Gerber products off the shelves. Maryland withdrew its order after the Food and Drug Administration found no glass in Gerber products, and the lawsuit was dropped.

Analysts speculated that McKinley was forced out because earnings dropped 20% for the year that ended March 31, largely as a result of the glass scare. Also, Gerber's furniture and children's clothing businesses took a beating from imports last year, analysts said.

"Unfortunately, McKinley was at the switch when Gerber had its tough times," said William Maguire, a food industry analyst with Merrill Lynch in New York. "I have to imagine that since he's leaving immediately, he thinks he's not wanted."

Gerber said McKinley decided to retire for personal reasons and was not available for interviews. McKinley assumed the posts of chairman and chief executive in November, 1985.

"Bill McKinley played an active role in the growth of Gerber for 37 years, and his leadership will be missed," Goulet said in a statement. "He leaves the company with a strong financial structure. . . . Our competitive position is also excellent in all market areas."

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