NEW YORK — The new owners of Heinz are tapping Burger King chief Bernardo Hees as the company’s next top executive, a move that installs one of their own at the helm of the ketchup maker.
It also signals other big changes could be in store for the 144-year-old company, which had been run by chief executive William Johnson for the past 15 years.
The Pittsburgh company, which also makes baked beans, vinegar, and Classico pasta sauce, had said in February that it was being acquired and taken private by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital, a private investment firm run by Brazilian billionaires.
The firms noted at the time that Berkshire would act as a financing partner while 3G would run the company. The appointment is further evidence that Heinz will be an active investment by 3G, in contrast to Buffett’s traditionally more passive approach.
Hees, a 43-year-old Brazilian who is also a partner at 3G, became chief executive of Burger King after the firm bought the struggling hamburger chain in 2010.
He has since slashed costs, revamped the chain’s menu, and launched a major marketing campaign. The moves set the groundwork for Burger King’s return to the stock market last spring in a deal that allowed 3G to more than recoup its investment while remaining the majority owner.