Flop of the Month: Kraft Heinz looks less than crafty in failed Unilever bid

Unilever got the better of US food giant Kraft Heinz after the latter's unsuccessful takeover attempt.

One of the most exciting corporate takeover stories in recent years lasted all of, er, 48 hours.

On Friday 17 February Kraft Heinz admitted it was making a £115bn bid for Anglo-Dutch packaged goods behemoth Unilever, after news had leaked to the Financial Times’ Alphaville blog that morning. It also emerged that the US giant was using WPP financial shop Finsbury and New York firm Joele Frank for PR advice.

Moreover, on learning this, canny Unilever CEO Paul Polman is said to have complained to Martin Sorrell, boss of WPP – which handles vast amounts of Unilever advertising and PR - prompting Finsbury to quickly step down, replaced by FTI Consulting.

Meanwhile, on the Unilever side, Tulchan boss Andrew Grant was rubbing his hands; the defence gathering confidence.

Insiders say Unilever’s strategy was to hit out ‘hard and early’ at Kraft Heinz’s unwanted attention. And with mounting concern from Downing Street at yet another British-based firm threatening to fall into American hands, Kraft’s backers – including Warren Buffett – withdrew their offer on Sunday 19th.

Credit then to Tulchan, which is a fraction of the size of Finsbury or Brunswick, and to Unilever’s comms chief Sue Garrard. Kraft Heinz’s reputation was hardly enhanced by this bid; the campaign itself proving a damp, Ketchup-covered, squib.


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