Chiquita CEO to WBTV: Decision to replace him "was the right tim - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Chiquita CEO to WBTV: Decision to replace him "was the right time"

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Charlotte, N.C. (WBTV) -- Less than a day after it was announced publicly that Chiquita CEO Fernando Aguirre was going to be replaced as part of the company's downsizing, he answered questions in an interview Wednesday morning with WBTV News anchors Christine Nelson and John Carter.

Aguirre said, "Anytime you have a smooth transition like this you want to make sure you plan for it. There is always succession planning and succession discussions with the Board. We've had several of them."

"As the CEO of a publicly held company you don't last nine years very easily. This is probably 2-3 times the normal life of a CEO," said Aguirre. "We did have a lot of discussions over the last several months and certainly one of my objectives was to make sure we completed the move to Charlotte. We felt it was the right time."

Aguirre was asked whether the company's decision to downsize was any indication Chiquita would not be able to meet the city of Charlotte's requirements to relocate to the Queen City.

He responded by saying, "Yesterday, I talked to Mayor (Anthony) Foxx. I wrote letters to him (and Governor Bev Perdue) saying we have already committed our first year job requirements and payroll requirements. We are scheduled to meet and surpass our second-year requirements within the next six weeks or so when the next 50 people move into Charlotte. We have hired 158 people already here. Which, unfortunately, only two of them will not have jobs. This was the location that was least affected of all of our global locations. So from that perspective, and as you probably have heard from the Chamber of Commerce, if we don't make our requirements we don't get our incentives. It's really very simple."

The announcement came late Tuesday afternoon Chiquita is actively seeking a replacement for CEO Fernando Aguirre as part of a broad restructuring plan.

Aguirre tweeted late Tuesday, "big thanks to Chiquita employees, Charlotte business and government leaders and twitter followers. Tough decisions but committed to a smooth transition."

He also told WBTV anchor Brigida Mack via Twitter Tuesday the decision to replace him as CEO was a "joint decision."

The company made its announcement as part of its second quarter 2012 earnings report.

Chiquita made a profit of just $12 million during the quarter on $833 million in sales.

The company has been losing money in recent years, citing a sluggish worldwide economy amid rising commodity prices.

"While we do not believe that Chiquita's second quarter results reflect the sustainable earnings potential of our business, our results exceeded our expectations, in spite of the significant impact from the dramatic reduction in the value of the euro and difficult pricing comparisons to 2011. The negative euro impact alone was $26 million," said Fernando Aguirre, chairman and chief executive officer of Chiquita.

The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce responded to the news Tuesday. In a statement, Bob Morgan, Chamber CEO and President said, "Our incentives are performance based. If the jobs promised do not come to Charlotte, the incentives do not get paid. Downsizings are always painful yet sometimes necessary. It is in Charlotte's best interest for Chiquita to do what it needs to do to return to profitability. Charlotte owes a debt of gratitude to Fernando Aguirre. He added Chiquita to our skyline and he has made many other positive civic contributions in a short period of time."

Charlotte's mayor, Anthony Foxx, echoed Morgan and said, "they're gonna fulfill all of their obligations to the city as result of the package we agreed to last year."

Aguirre is expected to stay on with the company until the company selects a new CEO. According to SEC filings, he will be provided with "a consulting fee of $40,000" per month for a year, in what the company calls a transition period.

Aguirre also confirmed to WBTV the restructuring comes at a cost of 310 jobs. Two Charlotte hires, 13 others that were moving and the rest from global locations.

Banana sales were down 4 percent to $533 million for the quarter.

As part of its restructuring, the company says it will focus on its core areas of banana and salad sales, saving the company a projected $60 million.

At the close of trading on Tuesday, Chiquita's stock price stood at $5.31, up 0.20 cents on the day.

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