Hershey Foods, the US chocolate and candy giant, recently put up for auction by the controlling Milton Hershey School Trust – owner of 77% of the company’s voting rights [WAMN: 29-Jul-02] – has encountered a second wave of opposition to the sale.

The first demurral came from Pennsylvania’s attorney general Mike Fisher in the form of a legal injunction alleging a takeover of Hershey could cause “irreparable harm” to the eponymous ‘company town’ that depends on the firm. Opposition has also been voiced by politicians and unions. The trust ripostes that it has a fiduciary obligation to consider a possible sale.

’Not so,’ cries The Milton Hershey School Alumni Association, representing the orphan school’s former pupils, which today (Thursday) will file a petition with the Dauphin County Orphans' Court in Pennsylvania alongside that already lodged by the attorney general. A hearing has been set for next Tuesday, September 3.

Alumni Association president, New York lawyer Ric Fouad, said the association opposed the decision to explore a sale. This ignores the impact it could have on the community - and by extension the pupils of the school the trust is charged to protect. “It is inconceivable that the trust should divest itself today of Hershey Foods,” Fouad insists.

Meantime, huddled in the wings awaiting their chocolate fix, are a number of potential bidders, among them Switzerland’s Nestlé, Kraft Foods of the US and Britain’s Cadbury-Schweppes – each reluctant to make the first move lest it be seen by the world as King of the Bad Guys.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff