Campbell Soup taps Deloitte for critical review amid investor pressure

Campbell Soup has tapped management consulting firm Deloitte to help guide a previously announced strategic review while activist shareholder Third Point separately takes a stake in the company, stoking takeover speculation, people familiar with the situation tell CNBC.

Campbell stirred questions about a potential sale when it announced in May that it was conducting a “thorough and critical” review of its operations and holdings after it disclosed “unacceptable” earnings and the departure of CEO Denise Morrison.

Deloitte’s involvement takes its review process even further in helping Campbell determine the company’s next steps. Deloitte is expected to tie up the review before Campbell announces earnings at the end of August, said the people, who declined to be identified because the discussions aren’t public.

Campbell has previously said the board hasn’t yet made a decision on the company’s future course, which it plans to announce when it reports earnings.

“Campbell is currently undertaking a board-led comprehensive strategic and operational review of the business, including the composition of its entire portfolio, to examine all potential paths forward,” company spokesman Thomas Hushen told CNBC. “We will present a thoughtful and effective plan for enhancing shareholder value on August 30 when the Company announces its fourth-quarter and full-year results.”

The soup giant is already working with investment bank Centerview Partners on the review. Centerview’s co-founder, Blair Effron, has a close relationship with the soup company that dates back decades.

It may also hire a second bank, depending on its decided course of action, the people say.

The company has also begun the process of looking for Morrison’s replacement, people familiar with the matter say. One top internal candidate is Chief Operating Officer, Luca Mignini, these people previously told CNBC.

It’s previously said it’s looking at both internal and external candidates.

Campbell’s Chief Financial Officer, Anthony Disilvestro, has been serving as point person for much of the strategic review, the people say.

The 149-year-old soup company is viewed as vulnerable to hostile suitors as it faces pressure on multiple fronts and its shares slide. The company’s stock is down more than 22 percent over the last 12 months.

Its wet soup business declined 1.9 percent over the past year, it told analysts in May. Its fresh food business, which includes Bolthouse Farms, is clocking a loss of roughly $50 million in earnings before interest tax depreciation and amortization, down from a $150 million gain, the people say. Meantime, industry experts say integrating its $6.1 billion acquisition of pretzel company Snyders-Lance will be difficult.

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