September 30, 2013

Changes at Manischewitz Loom as Company Celebrates a Milestone

NEWARK, NJ — It was 10 years ago that Bernard Manischewitz died, marking the end of an era that began with the founding of the iconic B. Manischewitz Co. by his grandfather Rabbi Behr Manischewitz. Bernard was the last member of the Manischewitz family to have been involved with the legendary kosher food company. Now comes word that more changes are looming at Manischewitz as the company may very well be acquired and a new CEO named. 

The current co-CEO’s Alain Bankier and Paul Bensabat are said for the time being to have stepped down and were replaced by an interim CEO. Sources say that a deal is in the offing for the acquisition of the company but no details were available. Family ownership of Manischewitz ended in 1990 when B. Manischewitz had an 80 percent share of the U.S. matzo market but no obvious apparent heir within the family. Bernard oversaw the company’s sale to the buyout firm Kohlberg & Co. for $42.5 million. Kohlberg sold it in 1998 to RAB Enterprises, and then in 2007, it was purchased by Harbinger Capital Partners, which changed the company’s name back to The Manischewitz Company and within a few years entered into a deal with another investment company. 

In June 2011, the company inaugurated its new 19,000 square-meter plant and headquarters in Newark, New Jersey. The company’s CEOs  Alain Bankier and Paul Bensabat, both of whom were born in Morocco, made significant changes at Manischewitz, including updating the image of the company and introducing many new products. They were major supporters of Jewish Heritage Month, which included ceremonies at the White House. It was not clear why the sudden change in leadership although one source who asked to be anonymous claimed that despite the changes made by Mssrs. Bankier and Bensabat, “some of the brands that Manischewitz had acquired were not living up to projections but others like Seasons were doing well even beyond the kosher market.” Another source told Kosher Today that the two remained involved in an advisory capacity with their futures uncertain. In the marketplace, sources confirmed, there has been no change in the Manischewitz sales strategy or business model and one source said that despite any rumors to the contrary, “Manischwitz is alive and doing well.”