Irene Rosenfeld, Kraft Foods chief executive, was given a 41 per cent pay rise last year to $26.3m for services that included “exceptional” leadership in the takeover of Cadbury, the UK chocolate maker, Kraft said in a filing on Tuesday.

Kraft’s bid was criticised by Warren Buffett, whose Berkshire Hathaway group is the foodmaker’s largest shareholder. He argued that Kraft overpaid in its $19.1bn deal for Cadbury.

The Kraft board said it had “heavily weighted the significant effort and the ultimate acquisition of Cadbury in assessing individual performance” of Kraft’s senior executives.

The company’s 2010 proxy filing said Ms Rosenfeld showed “exceptional” leadership in executing Kraft’s formal offer in November and closing the deal in January this year.

It “specifically noted her commitment to financial discipline as evidenced by maintaining our investment grade rating, accretion to cash earnings in the second full year and our current dividend”.

Mr Buffett also criticised Ms Rosenfeld’s decision to sell Kraft’s successful DiGiorno pizza business to Nestlé for $3.7bn, helping it to finance the Cadbury bid, arguing that the deal had reduced the value of the company.

Kraft’s compensation committee cited the successful sale of the pizza business as one of the factors influencing its incentive award to Ms Rosenfeld, along with the company’s improved financial performance as it completed a three-year turnround plan.

Ms Rosenfeld’s $26.3m in 2009 compensation compared with $18.7m in 2008. Her package included shares, a base salary of $1.47m and cash incentives of $10.86m, up from a cash incentive award of $4.07m for 2008.

The package puts Ms Rosenfeld’s 2009 compensation more than 40 per cent higher than the $18.8m paid to Muhtar Kent, her counterpart at Coca-Cola, and two-thirds more than the $15.8m paid to Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo.

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