PHILADELPHIA — Campbell Soup Co. said today its chief executive, R. Gordon McGovern, has decided for personal reasons to take early retirement, sparking renewed takeover speculation and sending its stock sharply higher.
Campbell's stock shot $3.375 higher to $47.125 on the New York Stock Exchange.
The new sign of turmoil at the Camden, N.J.-based soup maker revived the takeover talk that has surrounded the company since the death in April of its patriarch Chairman John Dorrance Jr., son of the company's founder.
The resignation of McGovern, 63, follows layoffs and plant closings at the once-paternalistic company that has been changing since Dorrance's death. Since then the company has announced cost cuts, layoffs and the closing of the home plant in Camden, N.J.
The combination of low profits, a depressed stock price and brand-name assets make it particularly vulnerable to a takeover.
Campbell's well-known soups and such other food brands as Franco-American, V-8 Juice and Swanson frozen foods are considered valuable.
The Dorrance family controls more than half of the stock of the company, founded in the late 1800s by John Dorrance. But analysts say the family members have much less interest in the soup business than the late founder's son.
The company said it has named senior vice presidents Herbert M. Baum, 53, and Edwin L. Harper, 47, as executive vice presidents. Day-to-day operations will be divided between the two pending selection of a new chief executive to replace McGovern, who was with the company more than 30 years.
Campbell said both Baum and Harper, among others, are candidates for the post of chief executive.
Also named as a possible successor was Horst Schroeder, 48, the West German-born former president of Kellogg Co., who was believed to be in line for that company's chief executive post when he resigned abruptly last month.