But today, 15 years after the deal, Mr. Michalak said Ben & Jerry’s remained as mission-driven as ever, and was having a bigger impact than before because of its increased size. (Since the acquisition, Unilever has nearly tripled Ben & Jerry’s revenue and added hundreds of jobs.) And instead of watching Ben & Jerry’s simply disappear into Unilever, Mr. Michalak and his colleagues have pushed their new parent company to become a more progressive multinational.
The recipe for this amicable partnership was written into the acquisition agreement. Unilever, not wanting to squander its purchase, chose to operate Ben & Jerry’s with more autonomy than any of its other subsidiaries. To ensure middle managers did not contaminate the unique culture, Unilever established an “external board” charged with overseeing Ben & Jerry’s culture and social mission.