© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Ice creams of Ben & Jerry’s, a Unilever brand, are seen at their shop in London, Britain, October 5, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay/File Photo
(Reuters) – The founders of ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s said on MSNBC on Sunday that parent Unilever (NYSE:) PLC is in violation of the 2000 merger deal over its sale of Ben & Jerry’s business in Israel to a local licensee who could sell their products in the West Bank.
“That agreement gave authority over the social mission to the independent board of Ben & Jerry’s. Unilever has usurped their authority and reversed the decision that was made and we can’t allow that to happen, we can’t sit idly by,” Ben Cohen said in a televised interview.
Partner Jerry Greenfield said the agreement is legally binding and needs to be adhered to.
Unilever, in contrast, has said it retained the right to make operational decisions for Ben & Jerry’s, and that the sale could not be undone because it has irrevocably closed.
Ben & Jerry’s said earlier this month that it plans to amend its lawsuit challenging Unilever’s sale of the Israeli business in Federal court in Manhattan. Unilever must respond by Nov. 1.
In July 2021, the Burlington, Vermont based company decided to end sales in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, calling it “inconsistent” with the progressive values and social mission it retained the right to promote.
That decision prompted a backlash against Unilever, including divestments by pension funds from the consumer goods company and accusations of anti-Semitism by some Jewish groups.