Chairman of TLC Beatrice resigns posts

January 06, 1994|By Newsday

NEW YORK -- Jean S. Fugett Jr., hand-picked by his late half-brother, Reginald Lewis, to succeed him as chairman and chief executive officer of TLC Beatrice International Food, resigned from both posts yesterday.

Loida Nicholas Lewis, Mr. Lewis' widow, will take over as chairwoman of the nation's largest black-owned business Feb. 1 after being elected to the post by the company's board of directors. TLC Beatrice will begin a search for a new chief executive. Mr. Fugett will remain in that position until a successor is named.

Mr. Fugett also will continue as a member of the company's board and management committee. A TLC Beatrice spokesman said Mr. Fugett's decision to vacate the company's top posts was made by himself and Mrs. Lewis.

"Mrs. Lewis has been a key adviser to me throughout the past year," Mr. Fugett said in a statement. "I have encouraged the Lewis family, as the company's majority shareholder, to play a more active role in the business." Mr. Lewis' estate is the controlling stockholder, with about 47 percent of the shares.

Mrs. Lewis, an attorney born in the Philippines, served with the Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1979 to 1990 and currently is chairwoman of a foundation established by her late husband.

Mr. Fugett said he viewed his role as being overseer of the company's reorganization, which included closing unprofitable operations and reducing the number of employees from about 5,000 to 4,700.

But shareholders and financial analysts viewed Mr. Fugett's unexpected departure as a chance for the company to recruit a chief executive who is knowledgeable about the food industry. TLC Beatrice's sales, $1.6 billion in 1992, have been hurt by the recession in Europe, where most operations are located.

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