Mondelez CEO Says Investors Don’t Care About Boycotting Russia

Dirk Van de Put said the company has received no pressure from shareholders to stop doing business with Russia.

Photo of Oreo cookies
Photo by No Revisions via Unsplash

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Would you peg Putin as an Oreo dunker or cruncher? 

Dirk Van de Put, CEO of Mondelez, the US multinational behind such confectionary brands as Oreos, Sour Patch Kids, and Milka, gave a strikingly candid interview to the Financial Times on Thursday in which he said investors just aren’t that bothered about whether the company continues to do business in Russia.

Not Russian to Get Out

Van de Put told the FT that the company has received no pressure from shareholders to stop doing business with Russia since it invaded Ukraine, adding that shareholders don’t “morally care” about the issue. At most, he said some European funds had asked about it, but there was no impetus to get out of the Russian market. 

When the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, many Western companies pulled out of the market immediately. Others were a little slower to extricate themselves, like McDonald’s, and some gave up on trying to leave because of the costs they’d incur, like Philip Morris. Van de Put argues that exiting the country would do no one any good:

  • He pointed to companies including Danone and Carlsberg that were forced to sell off their operations to the Russian state. “They all went to friends of Putin,” Van de Put said, adding: “You can bet that the cash they generate [that] goes to the war is much bigger than the taxes we would pay.”
  • Despite Western sanctions, Russia has managed to keep its wartime economy surprisingly buoyant, partly due to the Russian government propping up certain sectors with subsidies.

Candy Crushin’: “We try to not be confrontational or make big statements and just get on with our business,” Van de Put told the FT, although he might be slightly fudging the company’s approach. In a March 2022 email to employees, Van de Put said the company would be “scaling back all non-essential activities in Russia while helping maintain continuity of the food supply,” However, data gathered by Bloomberg suggests the company is modestly increasing its activity there. You know what they say about oligarchs and cookie jars.