October 4, 2007/New York/The International Herald Tribune and October 3, 2007/London/The Independent -- The increasingly fierce competition in the U.S. confectionery business claimed its most high-profile victim yet, as Richard Lenny, chief executive of the Hershey Company, quit in frustration at the failure of America's largest chocolate-maker to keep up with Mars. Lenny, who joined Hershey's in 2001 from Kraft Foods, told the board over the weekend of his plan to depart, Hershey's spokesman Kirk Saville said yesterday.

"There's been some disappointing performance and there's no question the man's been under some intense pressure," said Marvin Roffman, an analyst at Roffman Miller Associates in Philadelphia, which owns Hershey's shares.

In recent times, the 113-year-old manufacturer of Kit Kat bars, Reese's peanut butter cups and Hershey's Kisses has failed to come up with new products. Mars has been eating into the Hershey Company's market share by spending more on ads and its own new products.

There were reports that Lenny had clashed with the charitable Hershey Trust that owns 78% of the company and that he felt unable to operate autonomously.

Cadbury Schweppes, the U.K. company that wants to sell off its own soft-drinks unit, has often been mooted as a merger partner for Hershey's. A move by the Hershey Trust to sell the company to Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co. failed at the last minute in 2002 after a long campaign of opposition from a local alliance that included Pennsylvania's Attorney General, Mike Fisher, and the Community of Hershey, the town where the company was founded by Milton S. Hershey in 1894.

Shortly after the announcement of Lenny's departure, Hershey had picked its current operating chief, David West, as its next chief executive.

West, whose new post as president becomes effective immediately, will take over as chief executive on December 1, the company said Tuesday. Hershey said Monday that Lenny would leave at the end of 2007.

Hershey plans to cut 12 %of its workforce, reduce the number of assembly lines and transfer some operations to Mexico to reduce costs. The shares have fallen 8.1% this year.

From the October 8, 2007, Prepared Foods e-Flash