Business
4:52 pm
Wed October 3, 2012

Chiquita Names New CEO

Chiquita's new CEO is better versed in selling soap than bananas, but the company's board believes it needs a someone with turnaround experience right now and Edward Lonergan is their choice. 

News of CEO Fernando Aguirre's exit from Chiquita last month caused some angst in Charlotte. He's been ever-present around town and on Twitter as the charismatic, bow-tie wearing face of the company. . . not to mention the man city leaders dealt with in wooing Chiquita's headquarters here with significant incentives.

The new CEO of Chiquita is not only unknown to Charlotte - he's largely unknown to the food industry, too.

Analyst Mary Ross Gilbert first scratched her head at the name "Ed Lonergan." She follows Chiquita for Imperial Capital and had never heard of Lonergan or Diversey - the cleaning supplies company he recently lead.

"You know, ideally you would think it'd be nice to have somebody on the food side, but I think (Longeran's ) having been at branded consumer product businesses, I think that's very transferrable for Chiquita," says Gilbert.

Gilbert thinks the most interesting part of Longeran's resume is the years before he lead a turnaround of that cleaning supply company called Diversey. He led European operations for The Gillette Company and was with Procter & Gamble for 21 years before that.

Whether its soap or razors, Gilbert figures Lonergan knows how to capitalize on a brand, and "Chiquita has a lot of opportunities to expand their brand we think."

Gilbert and other analysts place part of the blame for Chiquita's declining earnings on mismanagement. In addition to a new CEO, the company is restructuring to cut costs by $60 million annually. Moving to Charlotte helped with that effort.

Lonergan, himself, is now packing his home in Wisconsin for a move to Charlotte. Monday will be his first at Chiquita. 

Outgoing CEO Fernando Aguirre says he plans to stay in Charlotte, too, and is building a house here.