By Jean Lotus
Sal Ferrara confirmed Wednesday that he resigned from his post as CEO at Ferrara Candy Company in February.
"It was my decision and not anybody else's," Ferrara said.
A year and a half ago, the company merged with Catterton Partners, an investor group that owns Farley's & Sather's — makers of Jujyfruits, Chuckles and Brach's hard candies.
"We merged with a private equity group and there was a difference of cultures. It was time to move on," Ferrara said, noting that he planned to stay in the confection business.
"I'm still the biggest single shareholder in the company," and the company will continue to be called Ferrara Candy Co., he said.
Shortly after the 2012 merger, the company closed two factories in Round Lake, Minn. and Chattanooga, Tenn.
Thin profit margins in the candy industry have led many U.S. companies to open factories in other countries where there are no tariffs on imported Cuban sugar. Ferrara Candy runs three factories in Mexico.
When asked, Ferrara said he believed the Forest Park factory was not in danger of closing.
"I wouldn't worry about the factory in Forest Park," he said. Although the factory is busy, several letters of the giant company lighted sign over the I-290 expressway are burned out.
Asked what the future held for him, Ferrara said he would "pursue some other ventures I really enjoy."
The Ferrara candy plant has been located in Forest Park since 1959. The company was built by Sal Ferrara's father, Nello Ferrara, a Loyola University Law School graduate who returned to Chicago after World War II where he helped prosecute Japanese war crimes. He joined the family candy business run by his father and brothers-in-law. Nello focused the family-centered company on brand identity, creating the iconic Lemonheads, Atomic Fireballs, Red Hots and Boston Baked Beans. Nello Ferrara, who lived in River Forest, died in February of 2012 at age 93.
Shortly thereafter, the company merged with Farley's & Strather's.
According to Candy Industry Magazine, Todd Siwak, operating partner of Catterton Partners sent a letter to staff March 10 announcing the resignation.
"For the past 40 years, Sal has worked passionately for Ferrara Pan and has been a strong advocate for the entire candy industry," Siwak wrote. "I'd like to thank Sal for his dedicated service to our customers and his devotion to our employees."