The Wall Street Journal reports that "Ben & Jerry’s is suing parent company Unilever PLC to block the sale of its Israeli business to a licensee, the latest twist in a rift over the ice cream maker’s decision to end sales in Israeli-occupied West Bank and contested East Jerusalem.
"In a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan on Tuesday, Ben & Jerry’s said Unilever’s decision to sell the business in Israel last week was done without the approval of Ben & Jerry’s independent board of directors. The board held a special meeting on Friday in response to Unilever’s decision and voted 5-2 to file a lawsuit against its parent company, according to the complaint. Two Unilever appointees on the board were the dissenting votes, the lawsuit said."
The conflict goes back to Ben & Jerry's decision last year to stop selling its products in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and parts of East Jerusalem because of policy decisions there "inconsistent with our values." The move created a backlash both inside and outside Israel, and a lawsuit from the company there that had the right to make and distribute Ben & Jerry's.
Sine its acquisition by Unilever in 2000, Ben & Jerry's has had the right to make its own decisions about its traditional social mission, and the Ben & Jerry's board says it was surprised by the Unilever move.
The Journal writes that "Unilever said in a statement that it had the right to enter the arrangement. 'The deal has already closed. We do not comment on pending litigation,' a company spokesperson said."
- KC's View:
It seems amazing to me that it has taken 22 years for this kind of public conflict to break out between Unilever and Ben & Jerry's.