Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kraft Foods Chief Eckert Takes Top Job at Troubled Mattel

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Kraft Foods Chief Eckert Takes Top Job at Troubled Mattel

Article excerpt

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Word that Kraft Foods chief Robert A. Eckert was taking the top job at toymaker Mattel was an immediate hit yesterday with two key constituencies: Wall Street investors and his four children.

The hard part now begins as Eckert takes on the task of rebuilding the world's biggest toy company, most importantly boosting its battered stock price and lifting depressed earnings after months of management turmoil and big loses.

Eckert, who resigned as president and CEO of Kraft on Tuesday, replaces Jill Barad, who left the El Segundo, Calif.-based Mattel in February after three turbulent years at its helm.

Investors gave Eckert a vote of confidence by sending Mattel shares up 13 percent, or $1.50, to $12.75 on the New York Stock Exchange. A number of Wall Street analysts' upgraded the company's stock.

Eckert called the jump in its share price a "good start."

"That's my mandate from the board. I'm here representing the shareholders. I'll make more money by building shareholder value than I will by getting fired. The board's made that pretty clear to me," he said.

There was an upside at his home, too, where Eckert's children, ages 21 through 8, endorsed the move.

"I was a hero throughout my kids' childhood because I had access to macaroni and cheese and Lunchables" packaged cold-cut meals, he said. "I've really scored some points in the last couple of days."

Eckert got the job in part because of his success rejuvenating Kraft brands and introducing successful new products.

Although Mattel's products are different from Kraft's, Eckert finds similarities in the need to create brand awareness and loyalty in the consumer marketplace.

He spent 23 years at Kraft, the last three as its top executive. He frequently had been mentioned as a probable successor to Geoffrey C. …

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