The Motley Fool's readers have spoken, and I have heeded your cries. After months of pointing out CEO gaffes and faux pas, I've decided to make it a weekly tradition to also point out corporate leaders who are putting the interests of shareholders and the public first, and who are generally deserving of praise from investors. For reference, here is last week's selection.
This week, we'll dive into something sweet and I'll show you why shareholders and employees should be singing the praises of J.M. Smucker (NYSE:SJM) CEO Richard Smucker.
Kudos to you, Mr. Smucker
If I haven't emphasized this point enough previously, let me reemphasize how much I enjoy a company run by many generations of the same family that still believe in the same core values as their great-grandparents.
Richard Smucker has done a truly remarkable job leading J.M. Smucker, a leading food retailer known for fruit spreads, coffee, peanut butter, and natural food beverages. The challenges facing Smucker are fierce at the moment. Food inflation costs are on a perpetual uptrend and are striking food retailers without prejudice. Both General Mills (NYSE:GIS) and Kellogg (NYSE:K) have cautioned Wall Street to expect weak earnings on multiple occasions due to higher food input prices. Even coffee prices, which have retreated from their highs, threaten to eat into the profits of K-Cup producer Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (UNKNOWN:GMCR.DL) which stocked up at considerably higher prices and has done a less than superb job of managing its inventory levels.
Smucker, on the other hand, has coped with these challenges by sticking to its core values, making earnings-accretive acquisitions, and focusing its high-growth operations on emerging markets. In particular, Smucker purchased Sara Lee's North American coffee and hot beverage business in early January and has made strategic investments in China in an attempt to target higher-growth segments and regions.
The results of Richard Smucker's actions are clearly evident. In a very tough year for food producers, J.M. Smucker is up 13% over the trailing 12 months when adjusted for dividends. Since Richard took the helm as co-CEO of J.M. Smucker in February 2001 (until mid-2011, both he and his brother Tim Smucker held co-CEO roles) , Smucker's share price has risen by a tasty dividend-adjusted 353%. Furthermore, the company pays a handsome 2.4% yield whose quarterly payout has more than tripled since 2001.
A step above his peers
It's very clear that Richard Smucker is a step above his peers since few companies can honestly say they're still family-run after more than a century of being in business. In addition to the family atmosphere created by working at Smucker, multiple other perks exist for employees and the community alike.
From an employee benefits perspective, J.M. Smucker offers a truly unique tuition reimbursement plan. If you think that Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) offering a $12,000 limit on tuition reimbursement is generous, then tell me how you'd feel knowing that Smucker has absolutely zero limit when it comes to tuition reimbursement! College is a near necessity and it's darn expensive, so this is, without question, a very generous perk offered by its management team.
Ohio-based J.M. Smucker is also doing what it can to fuel access to education on the college level by recently donating $1 million to Ohio State (my apologies to those Buckeye fans I've offended for not referring to it as "The" Ohio State University). The money will go toward grants and scholarships in the fields of food, agriculture, and environmental sciences.
Two thumbs up
Multigenerational family businesses don't run themselves, but Richard Smucker has done a great job of instilling those same family values now that were present when the business was first founded more than a century ago. Employees have a family-friendly atmosphere and plenty of perks to look forward to, while shareholders have been rewarded with steady growth, prudent fiscal leadership, and a growing dividend. Those sweet results land Richard Smucker among a group of truly incredible CEOs!
Do you have a CEO you'd like to nominate for this prestigious weekly honor? If so, head on over to the new CEO of the Week board and chime in with your fellow Fools on who deserves some praise. If you don't have a nominee yet, don't worry; you can still weigh in on other members' selections.