Dean Foods CFO Chris Bellairs leaves post abruptly

  • Push-out Score suggests push-out forces
  • After around four years on the job
  • Praise and good wishes for Bellairs
  • Scott Vopni taking over in the interim
  • Search for a successor

(exechange) — Dallas, Texas, August 22, 2017 — Chris Bellairs, finance chief of Dean Foods, leaves the position. It is an abrupt change. As announced by Dean Foods Company in a news release and in a regulatory filing published on Tuesday, August 22, 2017, Chris Bellairs leaves the post as Chief Financial Officer at the dairy product manufacturing company in a surprising move after around four years on the job, effective immediately.

Among the 3,000 largest publicly held companies incorporated in the U.S. based on market capitalization, the average tenure of the CFOs who departed over the past twelve months was 5.6 years, according to data compiled by exechange.

Bellairs’ move comes eight months after Ralph Scozzafava took over as CEO of Dean Foods Company.

Bellairs leaves the company effective September 01, 2017.

Dean Foods will undertake a search for a successor.

Bellairs’ duties are taken over in the interim by Scott Vopni, most recently Chief Accounting Officer at Dean Foods Company.

No reason given

In the announcement, Dean Foods did not explicitly explain the obviously compelling reason for Bellairs’ sudden move, opening the door for speculation.

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

Alarm signal

Generally speaking, it is often an alarm signal for investors when a CFO leaves the position abruptly and without a reasonable explanation.

“Depart/has stepped down”

Dean Foods said: “Chris Bellairs, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, will depart the company effective September 1.”

Dean Foods further said: “On August 22, 2017, Dean Foods Company … announced that Chris Bellairs, the Company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, has stepped down.”

“Not related to any issues”

“Bellairs’ departure is not related to any issues regarding the integrity of the company’s financial statements or accounting policies and practices,” Dean Foods said.

It is a phrase that may be intended to prevent false rumors. It may also fuel further speculation and raise more questions than it answers. Such a phrase should be read very carefully. The exact wording may be insightful.

Share price decline

The change follows a sharp decline in the share price of Dean Foods Company since December 2016.

Chaired by Jim Turner

Dean Foods Company is chaired by Jim Turner.

Jim Turner has served as the Non-Executive Chairman of the Board since August 2015.

CEO: Ralph Scozzafava

Ralph Scozzafava serves as CEO of Dean Foods Company. Scozzafava serves as Chief Executive Officer for Dean Foods Company, a role he assumed in January 2017. Prior to being named CEO, he served as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer since October 2015.

On the job as CFO since 2013

Bellairs has served as the Company’s Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer since March 1, 2013.

Prior to being promoted to such position he served in various capacities including as the Company’s Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer Designate from November 2012 to March 2013; as Chief Financial Officer of the Company’s Fresh Dairy Direct business from January 2012 until November 2012; and as the Company’s Vice President – Supply Chain Finance from 2008 through 2011.

Prior to joining Dean Foods, Bellairs worked at PepsiCo, Inc., a global food and beverage company, from 1996 to 2004, where he most recently served as Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for the Foodservice and Vending division and led the financial integration of the Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana brands.

Prior to joining PepsiCo, he worked at Procter & Gamble in various finance management roles and served as divisional Chief Financial Officer at Expedia, Inc. and Iron Mountain Incorporated and in a senior leadership role at The University of Notre Dame.

Bellairs was an intelligence officer in the U.S. Army for six years.

Bellairs has agreed to assist Vopni with the transition.


Generally speaking, when a top leader announces to step aside with no permanent successor in place, it is a sign that the move was unexpected and too early.

Push-out Score suggests push-out forces

It is not completely certain what forces eventually triggered Chris Bellairs’ sudden move.

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

Read the full story in the exechange report 35.2017 ($).