New Heinz owners cut 600 jobs


PITTSBURGH -- The new owners of the H.J. Heinz Co. are eliminating 600 office positions across the Pittsburgh company's operations in the U.S. and Canada -- including 350 jobs in Pittsburgh -- as a move toward a more efficient operation.

A company spokesman this morning confirmed reports that layoffs had begun in Pittsburgh this week, about two months after the close of the $28 billion sale of the historic food company to 3G Capital and Berkshire Hathaway.

The cuts will reduce Heinz employment in the Pittsburgh area from close to 1,200 to about 800.

"As part of our transition to a private company, the senior leadership team has examined every piece of our business to better position Heinz for accelerated growth in a very competitive global market," said Michael Mullen, senior vice president of corporate and government affairs.

He said a comprehensive evaluation process was done resulting in a streamlined structure for the Heinz North America division.

"Unfortunately, this process resulted in a number of difficult but necessary organizational changes, including the elimination of 600 office positions across the U.S. and Canada, including 350 in Pittsburgh. We regret the impact this has on Heinz employees and their families."

He said employees were notified this morning.

Mr. Mullen called the moves "difficult" but said they will better position Heinz for growth. "Our new organizational structure will simplify, strengthen and leverage the company's global scale, while enabling faster decision making, increased accountability, and accelerated growth."

The layoffs do not come as a surprise, as 3G Capital made similar cuts after previous acquisitions of companies such as Burger King and Anheuser-Busch.

Heinz's new CEO, Bernardo Hees, the former CEO of Burger King, moved quickly after the June 7 closing of the sale to establish a new management team, with almost a dozen executives moving on to make way for his new picks.

Mr. Mullen noted that Heinz will continued to be headquartered in Pittsburgh, something that the new owners had agreed to in the contract purchasing the ketchup maker.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Teresa F. Lindeman is a reporter for the Post-Gazette.