Ben & Jerry’s says Unilever froze directors’ salaries amid Israel spat

The move is a “pressure tactic” against the left-wing ice cream company, its board members said. 

By Debbie Reiss, World Israel News

Ben & Jerry’s parent company Unilever has stopped paying salaries to the company’s board members a year after a failed attempt by the ice cream giant to cut sales in Judea and Samaria.

Unilever denied payment to five independent board members as a “pressure tactic,” the board members said, after Ben & Jerry’s sued the consumer goods company in a bid to stop the sale of Israeli operations to its local licensee, Avi Zinger. The move would enable the continuation of Ben & Jerry’s operations in Judea and Samaria, which the ice cream company hoped to end in July 2021 because it was “inconsistent” with its values.

Unilever’s sale to Zinger, announced in June, angered Ben & Jerry’s board members who said that it violated the terms of the takeover deal struck with it.

“This decision for us to go to court is because of Unilever’s sale without our input, which is a clear violation of the letter and the spirit of our original acquisition agreement with Unilever,” board chairperson Anuradha Mittal said in an interview with Reuters. “If Unilever is willing to so blatantly violate the agreement that has governed the parties’ conduct for over two decades, then we believe it won’t stop with this issue.”

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“If left unaddressed, Unilever’s actions will undermine our social mission and essential integrity of the brand, which threatens our reputation and ultimately our business as a whole,” she added.

Ben & Jerry’s announcement that it would no longer offer its products “in occupied Palestinian territory” was hailed as a victory for the BDS movement.

The move prompted Unilever’s stock prices to plunge, with losses estimated at around $26 billion. Several U.S. states divested their pension funds from Unilever in line with anti-BDS laws — totaling an additional $1 billion.

A hearing on Ben & Jerry’s request to stop the sale to the local Israeli franchise is scheduled for Monday, Reuters said.