October 15, 2012

Changes at the Top at Empire Signify More Aggressive Posture by Kosher Poultry Giant

MIFFLINTOWN, PA -- In a move that stunned workers and officials in the kosher food industry, the Board of Directors of Empire Kosher Poultry last week replaced Greg Rosenbaum its Chief Executive Officer and promoted Jeff Brown, Empire’s Chief Operating Officer to the position of President of the kosher poultry giant.

Mr. Brown has been with Empire in various capacities for over 13 years. “I am looking forward to leading Empire Kosher on new paths of growth and potential,” Mr. Brown said after assuming his new role. Empire Kosher’s Board of Directors issued a statement with the announcement of Mr. Brown’s promotion and also thanking Mr. Rosenbaum: “We thank Greg for all his effort over these past many years. His hard work and dedication has been a valuable asset to the company.”

The move prompted a great deal of speculation about Empire’s intention at a time when kosher poultry in the US has undergone so much change in just the last year alone. Several industry officials guessed that the Board was moving towards assuming a more aggressive sales posture. “After all,” said one source close to the company, “Greg was never your marketing person; he was the typical corporate turnaround type.” 

Mr. Rosenbaum, President and founder of Palisades Associates, is an institutional investor and merchant banker. Mr. Rosenbaum previously served as a Vice President of the Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corporation (DKM), a large private investment firm active in leveraged buyouts, reporting directly to the CEO. When Rosenbaum took over Empire in 2006, the company had lost well over $100 million; a year or so later the company was already said to have been in the black.

Rosenbaum, a Reform Jew with little knowledge of kosher, quickly adapted to the changing demographics of the kosher market. His largest customer was Alle Processing, which brought in its own hashgacha, in addition to the plant’s overall certification by the Orthodox Union. Despite his being strongly pro-labor and sympathetic to a new Conservative led certification, Magen Tzedek, born in the aftermath of the Agriprocessor collapse, Rosenbaum resisted adding the designation to the Empire label out of fear of alienating his growing Orthodox customer base. 

But despite the closure of Mehadrin and Vineland brands in the past year, say industry officials, the company is a long way from its glory days under the Katz family, which probably factored in the Board’s decision to make the change. Rosenbaum’s successor is said to have more of a sales and marketing background and was responsible for the success of many brands, which is why the Board felt comfortable turning over the kosher poultry company to him.

Photo courtesy of Empire Kosher.