SunOpta CEO Rik Jacobs leaves abruptly

  • Strong signs for push-out forces
  • After about a year on the job
  • Thanks and good wishes for Jacobs
  • Katrina Houde takes over in the interim
  • Search for a successor

( — Toronto, Ontario, Canada, November 09, 2016 — Rik Jacobs, chief executive of SunOpta, leaves. It is an abrupt change. As announced by SunOpta Inc. in a news release on Wednesday, November 09, 2016, Hendrik (Rik) Jacobs leaves the post as Chief Executive Officer at the food and mineral company in a surprising move after about a year on the job, effective immediately.

No company wants a CEO to flame out in the first years.

SunOpta will undertake a search for a successor.

Jacobs’ duties are taken over in the interim by Katrina L. Houde, most recently Director at SunOpta Inc.

SunOpta has already removed the name of Jacobs from the leadership page and lists Houde as Interim CEO.

The move is part of a management shake-up.

No reason given

In the announcement, SunOpta did not explicitly explain the obviously compelling reason for Jacobs’ sudden move, leaving room for speculation.

Wake-up call

Generally speaking, it is often an alarm signal for stockholders when a CEO leaves the post abruptly and without an understandable explanation.

“Stepping down”

SunOpta said: “President and Chief Executive Officer Rik Jacobs and Chair of the Board Alan Murray will be stepping down from their respective positions, Mr. Jacobs effective November 11, 2016 [sic] and Mr. Murray effective today.”

Precise information about the future plans of Jacobs was not immediately available.

Share price decline

The change follows a decline in the share price of SunOpta Inc. since October 2014.

On the job as CEO since 2015

Rik Jacobs was appointed President and CEO of SunOpta Inc. effective October 1, 2015, and joined the organization in August 2012 as President and Chief Operating Officer.

Jacobs has been a transformational leader at SunOpta, establishing structures, talent and processes to support SunOpta’s focus on core assets in growing categories and executing its strategic priorities.

Jacobs brought over 20 years of international sales, marketing, innovation, strategic development and general management experience to this role.

Over the past 11 years Jacobs held a number of progressively responsible positions with Tetra Pak, the world’s leading supplier of equipment and materials for the processing and packaging of liquid food products, with revenues of approximately $12 billion in 165 markets worldwide.

Most recently Jacobs served as Cluster Vice President for North Europe with responsibility for the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia and the Baltic States.

Prior to this role, he served as Managing Director Benelux with responsibility for the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg, as Vice President of Strategy and Planning with responsibility for setting long term technology and product development strategies, and as Vice President of Sales for TetraPak USA.

Prior to joining Tetra Pak Jacobs held a number of international sales, marketing and general management positions with PepsiCo, Royal Dutch Ahold and the Coca-Cola Company.

Jacobs holds a Masters of Business Administration degree from the American Graduate School of International Management and a Bachelor of Business Administration from Oregon State University.


As a general rule, when a top leader announces to step down with no permanent successor in place, it is a signal that the change was unplanned and too early.

Strong signs for push-out forces

It is not completely certain what forces eventually triggered Rik Jacobs’ move.

The Push-out Score™ determined by suggests strong signs for push-out forces that may have contributed to the management change.

Read the full story in the report 42.2016 ($).