Chairman of Dr. Pepper, Krispy Kreme owner resigns

Business LeadersThe Wall Street Journal

Swindon, United Kingdom - April 25, 2014: Can of Dr Pepper on a bed of ice overa white background, The drink was created in the 1880s by Charles Alderton of Waco, Texas and first served around 1885

One of the architects of the consumer goods powerhouse behind Krispy Kreme, Dr. Pepper and Peet’s Coffee has unexpectedly resigned.

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In a statement Monday, JAB Ltd., which also owns Panera Bread and Stumptown, said its chairman Bart Becht would step down immediately.

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The move comes after Mr. Becht, a 62-year-old Dutch national, said in November that he would resign as chairman of cosmetics giant Coty Inc. —one of JAB’s largest investments—amid weak sales and a struggle to integrate dozens of Procter & Gamble Co. beauty brands.

London-based Mr. Becht, who had worked at JAB since 2011, has been a key figure in the company’s aggressive acquisition spree in recent years.

JAB has splashed out on several high-profile acquisitions, including deals to buy British sandwich chain Pret A Manger Ltd. And Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc., the No. 3 soft-drink company in the U.S.

In a 2012 interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Becht lauded JAB’s flexibility, saying working at the company wasn’t “necessarily always a full-time job.” However, more recently he has taken the view that JAB requires too much of his time, according to a person familiar with the matter. Mr. Becht doesn’t have his next career move lined up, said this person.

Mr. Becht is currently a board member of Krispy Kreme, Pret A Manger, Panera Bread, Caribou Coffee Co., Peet’s Coffee & Tea and Coty, according to JAB’s website. He is chairman of Keurig Dr. Pepper and Jacobs Douwe Egberts.

He has many years of consumer goods experience, having previously served as the CEO of Durex and Nurofen owner Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC—in which JAB also has a stake—for over a decade. He also worked at P&G.

Lately, he had been focused on steering JAB’s foray into the coffee business where the company has emerged as a rival to industry leaders Nestle SA and Starbucks Corp.

Mr. Becht is one of a trio of senior partners that runs JAB, the others being Peter Harf and Olivier Goudet. The company’s principal purpose has been to manage the money of one of Germany’s wealthiest families, the Reimann family, although it also has a growing consumer fund backed by outside investors.

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Alongside news of Mr. Becht’s departure, JAB said it had appointed Fabien Simon, a Frenchman, as its new partner and chief financial officer. Mr. Simon spent four years at Jacobs Douwe Egberts, one of JAB’s coffee investments, and previously spent 14 years at candy maker Mars Inc.

Write to Saabira Chaudhuri at saabira.chaudhuri@wsj.com