Raise a glass for Gary Kaneb and his 3,400 employees — a glass of milk, that is.
Kaneb is chief executive of HP Hood, the legendary Lynnfield-based company, and he has an important milestone to celebrate. To commemorate its 175th anniversary, Hood on Saturday unveiled a two-story mural crafted by local artist Sylvia Lopez Chavez in Charlestown, the place where the dairy operator got its start.
Kaneb became CEO when his father, John, died last month at the age of 86, and he also leads the family’s holding company, Catamount Management.
While many of Hood’s rivals have sold out over the years, Hood remains independent. The Kanebs grew the business from a regional milk distributor to a national powerhouse in large part by embracing new products such as lactose-free, oat, and almond milk. The Kanebs represent only the third ownership group in Hood’s history, after the namesake family and then Agway.
The privately held business generated about $2.7 billion in revenue last year, or roughly five times its annual revenue when the Kanebs acquired it in 1995. They’ve grown it from six plants in the Northeast to 13 across the country.
When they bought Hood from Agway, the Kanebs’ experience was in fuel, not dairy, including as partners at the time with the Haseotes family in Gulf Oil.
“Our background in the dairy business was drinking milk and eating ice cream,” Kaneb said. “We had no background whatsoever.”
The ensuing rollup of the dairy industry — primarily led by Suiza, now known as Dean Foods — proved fortuitous.
“Being privately owned gives us the ability to look years in the future, not just on a quarter-to-quarter basis,” Kaneb said. “Growing this business, we were willing to take risks. Sometimes we would ‘build something’ hoping they would come.”
The risk-taking paid off, with Hood tapping into several major trends. Hood added the Lactaid lactose-free milk to its portfolio, as well as Almond Breeze and Planet Oat. Hood also bottles SlimFast, Special K, and Muscle Milk, and makes Brigham’s ice cream along with its own namesake brand. Kaneb said he’s fully aware that the Hood brand is beloved among many New Englanders, particularly those who grew up snacking on Hoodsies with those flat, wooden spoons.
“If we don’t evolve, we end up like the dozens of other dairies that have gone out of business,” Kaneb said. “In honoring our heritage, we don’t want to turn into petrified wood.”
Making the drive, making the deal.
Progress Software’s workforce is still largely remote. But chief executive Yogesh Gupta believes showing up in person can pay off, big time. It may have given his company an edge in the bidding for a privately-held New York City software firm.
When Gupta engineered the acquisition of Chef a year ago, the deal-making was entirely virtual. But this time, as he chased Kemp Technologies, it was a mix of in-person and remote meetings. Because Kemp is within driving distance, Bedford-based Progress was able to pull it off without putting executives on a plane. In the end, Progress won with a $258 million bid, unveiled last week.
Negotiations began about four months ago.
“We could drive there,” Gupta said. “That allowed us to meet with them there. Those things helped. That was, to some degree, in our favor because we were able to show up in person.”
But Gupta doesn’t expect deal-making, or business travel in general, will ever fully return to the way things were, now that Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and the like have become so socially acceptable among his peers.
“The days of people doing all in-person meetings are long gone,” Gupta said.
Making a healthy bet
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many ad agencies hunkered down, waiting for the disaster to blow over.
Steve Connelly, the chief executive of Connelly Partners in Boston, said he did the opposite: He identified 10 areas where he would be aggressive about expanding. A deal to acquire VRX Studios in Vancouver helped his firm expand into Canada in March, and build his hospitality business.
Now, Connelly is trying to make a similar splash in health care and life sciences. Rather than acquiring a firm this time, he has hired industry vet Steve Piotrowski to launch a division dubbed CP Health.
Connelly said he embarked on a nationwide search but was happy to find out that the best candidate, Piotrowski, happened to live here in Massachusetts, in Scituate.
Piotrowski spent much of the past decade building the health care business for marketing giant Havas in Boston. But when he was asked to relocate to New Jersey, Piotrowski said no thanks, and left in 2018. More recently he worked at the Boston office of a D.C. public relations firm, JPA Health.
“I really loved the fact he was at a smaller place,” Connelly said. “The fact that he was at a smaller place meant that his sleeves were rolled up, he was getting the work done.”
Towers go up, garages come down
Trying to find tenants to fill half of a million-square-foot office tower in the middle of a pandemic might seem like the challenge of a developer’s career.
But that’s not the toughest task that Tom O’Brien faces as he builds the massive Bulfinch Crossing project at the site of the Government Center Garage.
“Demolishing the garage is a really big challenge,” said O’Brien, who leads HYM Investment Group. “It might be the hardest thing I’ve done in my career.”
O’Brien made that confession while speaking at an event held at the recently finished residential tower next door, the first phase of Bulfinch Crossing. That’s where he hosted about 80 members of real estate trade group NAIOP Massachusetts last Wednesday. Among those on hand: executives from rival developers Nordblom, National Development, and Skanska.
State Street Corp. leased 500,000 square feet in the office tower for its new headquarters, before the pandemic began, and will move there at the start of 2023. O’Brien said he’s hopeful that the increasing interest he’s seeing in the remaining 500,000 square feet will result in more lease signings this fall.
The garage? That’s going to take a while. It looms 135 feet above Congress Street, like an elongated spaceship that couldn’t find a better place to land. He needs to disassemble it piece by steel-and-concrete piece above the cars, pedestrians, and Green and Orange line trains that rumble by below. (Congress will be closed completely for a few months next year to accommodate the deconstruction.) The entire process will take well over a year to complete.
As a kid, O’Brien always thought the garage was the ugliest building in Boston. He’s made it his mission for at least 10 years to take it down. How serious is he about it? He said his company’s Wi-Fi password is “demothegarage.”