Hundreds of employees to lose jobs as Chiquita CEO leaves company



CHARLOTTE, N.C. - After nine years with the company, Chiquita CEO Fernando Aguirre is leaving.

The announcement came Tuesday as the company released its second-quarter earnings report. Now hundreds of people will lose their jobs, included Aguirre. He spoke exclusively to Eyewitness News shortly after the announcement.

Aguirre said he takes full responsibility for the upcoming changes within the company but said they're necessary to reduce cost.

"It hurts me, but I know if we don't do this, then there are 21,000 employees who depend on us to make these types of decisions," he said.

Chiquita's second-quarter earnings report showed the company had only a net income of $6 million on net sales of $833 million. This same time last year Chiquita reported a net income of $78 million. Chiquita said the changes are part of a restructuring plan to reduce annual costs by at least $60 million.

Aguirre said he'll stay on as CEO until his replacement is found. He said his ouster has been in the works for awhile.

"Great company, great brand, but all good things come to an end," said Aguirre.

As far as its impact on the Queen City, Aguirre said about 15 people will lose their jobs, but other than that it won't have any effect. We also learned there will be a 13 percent reduction in management and more than 300 positions cut globally. Aguirre said his next step is to oversee the move to Charlotte and organize things for his replacement.

"I will be working very closely with the board to make sure that the next leader that they pick has what he or she needs to start on the right foot."

The company has been transitioning its headquarters to Charlotte since the beginning of this year. The city provided a lavish, multi-million dollar incentive package with huge tax breaks. In return, the company promised 400 jobs with six-figure salaries, and charitable contributions locally -- none of which will change, Aguirre said.

"We were conservative in our estimates with the government, and that's one of the reasons why we do it, to plan for the unexpected."

Aguirre said he still plans to move to Charlotte and spend time with his family. He said he's even considered teaching and writing a book.

Fifty-five employees are expected to start work in Charlotte within the next four to six weeks. Aguirre said by the time they get here, the company already will have met the city's and state's expectations for job creation and payroll for the first two years.