Today the New York Post, citing unnamed sources, reported that Hamdi Ulukaya would soon be ousted as chairman and CEO of the Greek yogurt juggernaut he founded nearly 10 years ago. But the story was misleading in multiple respects: For one, the company announced way back in April that it would be installing a new CEO. Two, Chobani says there are no plans to remove Ulukaya from his role as chairman. And three, Ulukaya continues to work full-time at Chobani despite transitioning away from operational management.
Peter McGuinness, chief marketing and brand officer, tells Fast Company there is no truth to the rumors that Ulukaya’s leadership is in jeopardy. “It’s absolutely false,” McGuinness says. “He will remain owner, founder, and chairman. He will partner with the CEO that he chooses.” As for the timeline, McGuinness says: “There’s no hard and fast deadline. He wants to make sure he gets the right person.”
Ulukaya, still the company’s largest shareholder, currently spends two to three days per week at his office in downtown Manhattan. Otherwise he is working from New Berlin, New York–the site of Chobani’s first factory and the contemporary home he built nearby–or visiting the $450 million factory in Idaho that was the source of the mold that sickened nearly 200 customers and led to a devastating 2013 product recall.
After that incident, Chobani says it learned its lesson. The company brought in operational veterans to complement its inexperienced founder and brokered a $750 million deal with private equity firm TPG Capital in the form of a second-lien loan, using the cash to upgrade its equipment. TPG now owns 20-35% of the company; Kevin Burns, technically a TPG employee, has been serving as interim president and chief operating officer of Chobani.
There are still signs of growing pains: For example, initial plans for a 2015 IPO have been pushed back to 2016. (“We’ll do it when we need to and when we’re ready,” McGuinness says.) But the Greek yogurt category is growing at double-digit rates, according to Nielsen, and McGuinness says he anticipates double-digit growth for Chobani in the year ahead.
As of press time TPG had not responded to a request for comment.