Clouse was previously CEO of Pinnacle Foods

Clouse was previously CEO of Pinnacle Foods

Campbell Soup Co. reportedly has its sights on a prominent US food-manufacturing executive to fill the vacant CEO position at the under-scrutiny soup maker.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Campbell has earmarked former Pinnacle Foods and Mondelez International executive Mark Clouse as its top choice to succeed Denise Morrison at the helm of the Chunky and Swanson owner.

The WSJ, citing unnamed sources, said Campbell could strike a deal in the next few weeks if he is interested in following Morrison, who left the Lance crackers maker in May alongside the publication of hefty quarterly losses and questions over the company's strategy.

Clouse was the CEO of Pinnacle Foods for two years until it was acquired by fellow US manufacturer Conagra Brands earlier this year. He joined Pinnacle in 2016 after almost two decades at Mondelez.

just-food approached Campbell for comment but the business had not returned a request for comment at the time of writing.

Campbell installed director Keith McLoughlin as its interim CEO in the wake of Morrison's departure but is looking for a permanent appointment.

Last week, McLoughlin told analysts the Campbell board was having "extensive discussions" with a number of candidates "who possess deep experience in consumer packaged goods and a strong track record of proven results".

Speaking as Campbell filed its first-quarter financial results, McLoughlin added: "The board continues to expect to name a permanent CEO by the end of the calendar year."

Earlier this week, Campbell struck a deal with critical investor Third Point that should bring a halt to the war of words between the two over the manufacturer's strategy.

The discord, which had rumbled since Third Point became a Campbell shareholder during the summer, had threatened to lead to an overhaul of the Plum baby-food business' board. Both sides were looking to put nominees for directorships at Campbell up for election at its AGM tomorrow.

Third Point has agreed to withdraw its slate of nominees. The fund, run by billionaire and activist investor Daniel Loeb, will support Campbell's slate of directors at the meeting and end its litigation against the company.

In return, Campbell will increase the size of its board from 12 to 14 members and add two independent directors from Third Point's proposed slate – Comscore president Sarah Hofstetter and Kurt Schmidt, a former Nestlé executive and the ex-CEO of US pet-food business Blue Buffalo. 

Third Point will therefore get input into Campbell's search for a new CEO through Hofstetter and Schmidt being on its board.

Campbell was driven to reach an agreement with Third Point in part because Clouse would not agree to join the company if the two sides were still arguing, the WSJ's sources told the publication.