Kefir family feud cools down, but Lifeway Foods corporate governance committee to ‘oversee a review of strategic alternatives for the company’

Founded by Michael Smolyansky in the 1980s, Lifeway Foods​​ has been run by his daughter Julie as CEO since Michael’s death in 2002​,​ while Ludmila (Julie’s mother) serves as chair of the board (her consulting contract with the company was terminated at the end of last year).

Julie’s brother Edward was COO until January 4 and FoodNavigator-USA understands he was terminated for cause.

The first public signs that the Smolyansky family members – who have a controlling stake in the business – were not on the same page, emerged February 25​​​ in a 13D form​​​​​ filed with the SEC in which Ludmila and Edward argued that Julie should be replaced as CEO, and that the board should explore “strategic alternatives​.”

The independent directors of the Lifeway board responded with a statement saying that they fully supported Julie Smolyansky, who stressed that her “loyalty lies with our company, our brand, our customers, our employees, our shareholders, and my father’s legacy​.”​​

Edward and Ludmila Smolyansky agree to withdraw their director nominations ahead of AGM

In a statement​ released this morning, the firm says Lifeway’s board will nominate Julie Smolyansky and Ludmila Smolyansky, Juan Carlos Dalto, Jodi Levy, Dorri McWhorter, Perfecto Sanchez, Jason Scher, and Pol Sikar for election at the August 31 AGM.

Edward and Ludmila have in turn agreed to withdraw their director nominations and vote all of their shares in favor of Lifeway’s nominees at the AGM.

As part of the agreement, the audit and corporate governance committee of the Lifeway board will “oversee a review of strategic alternatives for the company.”

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