June 19, 2024
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Calavo taps former CEO to lead the company

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Santa Paula-based Calavo Growers announced on March 13 that former head executive Lee Cole is returning to lead the company, effective immediately, taking on the company’s president and CEO role after Brian Kocher stepped down from his post.

A member of the Business Times Hall of Fame, Cole stated in a press release that he would helm the position for the next three years, “with the goal of returning the company to a position of growth and shareholder value creation,” according to a March 13 news release announcing the move.

He added that he was “honored” to be back at Calavo.

Cole’s first stint as CEO was from 1999 until 2020 and he also served as a director of Calavo for 39 years, spending 28 years as chairman of the board.
 
“On behalf of Calavo and all of our employees, we thank Brian for all his efforts and wish him success in his future endeavors,” Steven Hollister, Calavo board chairman, said in the release.

“We would also like to welcome back Lee Cole as president and CEO. Lee was responsible for bringing Calavo into the public market and making it one of the largest avocado companies in the world. His knowledge of the avocado business is second to none, and we anticipate great things for the company and our employees as we move forward.”

Calavo shares closed down 4.5% with the price at $23.30 on March 13. Shares have dipped more than 20% since the company’s March 6 earnings release.

Kocher was the CEO of Calavo for a little over a year, first taking over in Feb. 1. He was the first permanent CEO after James Gibson retired unexpectedly in September 2021, a year and a half into his tenure.