Founders of American ice cream company, Ben and Jerry’s, have reportedly accused British multinational consumer goods conglomerate, Unilever, of breaking a 22-year-old deal that could result in its ice-cream being sold in the occupied West Bank.
Both Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, who founded the eponymous ice-cream company in Vermont back in 1978 with the social aim of advancing human rights and dignity, have stated that Unilever had violated a deal made in 2000, when it acquired the company for $326 million, by selling its interest to Avi Zinger, an Israel-based license holder and owner of AQP (American Quality Products).
Ben Cohen shared in a recent interview that the $326 million takeover agreement gave the independent board of directors at Ben & Jerry’s complete power over its social mission. However, Cohen claimed that Unilever dishonored the agreement by taking away this authority by selling its interest to Zinger.
Although Unilever has not issued and official response yet, the company revealed that it had the power to make operational decisions on behalf of Ben & Jerry’s. It also stated that the decision to sell the license could not be reversed.
Back in July, Ben & Jerry’s had sued Unilever, claiming that the license sale violated the terms of agreement Unilever signed in 2000 during the takeover.
The lawsuit, which was filed in New York, stated that the ice-cream maker valued its core principles, and that the court’s non-interference would negatively impact the independence of its board of directors and the brand’s goodwill.
However, last month, a U.S. district court judge turned down Ben & Jerry’s request for a preliminary ban that could block the licensee contract.
Earlier this month, Ben & Jerry’s announced that it planned to amend its complaint challenging the sale and has asked Unilever to respond by November 1st, 2022.
The latest lawsuit by Ben & Jerry’s has only further added to Unilever’s problems. Earlier in January, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) refused an offer of £50 billion ($57 billion) placed by the consumer goods giant for its consumer healthcare division. The failed agreement resulted in Unilever receiving severe backlash from its shareholders.