William Toler, Hostess
William Toler, president and c.e.o. of Hostess Brands, plans to retire March 1, 2018.

KANSAS CITY — William D. Toler, president and chief executive officer of Hostess Brands, Inc., has informed the company of his intent to retire, effective March 1, 2018, or sooner if a replacement is named. He will remain on the company’s board of directors.

Mr. Toler took the helm of Hostess Brands in April 2014, nine months after the company resumed operations following bankruptcy in November 2012. Under his leadership, the company’s sales and profitability grew steadily, recovering from the eight-month period after bankruptcy when Hostess cakes were off the market completely. Soon after he took charge, the company consolidated its production footprint to three plants from four and aggressively stepped up product innovation. While mostly focused on the company’s leading snack cake brands, new product introductions included extended-shelf-life bread targeted toward convenience stores and an expansion into the in-store bakery segment helped by the company’s June 2016 acquisition of Superior Cake Products, based in Southbridge, Mass. Less than two years after he was named president, a stake of the business was sold to Gores Group Holdings, a private equity firm. The transaction, which transitioned Hostess to a publicly traded company, was completed based on an enterprise valuation of $2.3 billion. The company had been acquired out of bankruptcy by private equity groups in early 2013 for $410 million.

C. Dean Metropoulos, Hostess
C. Dean Metropoulos, executive chairman of Hostess Brands

“On behalf of the board and management team I would like to thank Bill for his significant contributions to Hostess,” said C. Dean Metropoulos, executive chairman. “Under Bill’s leadership, the company successfully re-established the iconic Hostess brand as a leader within the sweet baked goods category and transitioned from a private to public company. Bill has led Hostess through a considerable growth phase and has generated significant stockholder value. It has been a pleasure working with him to establish a strong culture as a foundation for future success.”

In the recent quarter, Hostess market share hit a new peak amid softness in the sweet goods category, but the company’s stock price has languished between $13 and $14 per share, well beneath the 52-week high of $17.18. The company’s shares were first listed on Nasdaq in November 2016, trading at about $12 per share in the first days after the listing.

Hostess’ board of directors has established a subcommittee to identify and evaluate internal and external candidates for Mr. Toler’s successor with the help of an executive search firm. Mr. Metropoulos said he will expand his responsibilities as executive chairman as necessary to ensure a seamless transition.

“The board will now focus on identifying the right candidate to lead Hostess into its next phases of growth,” he said.

Prior to joining Hostess, Mr. Toler held numerous leadership roles in the consumer packaged goods industry, having served as c.e.o. of AdvancePierre Foods and president of Pinnacle Foods and Aurora Foods. He also held executive roles at Campbell Soup Co., Nabisco and Proctor & Gamble, where he began his career in 1981.

 “I am very proud of our accomplishments,” Mr. Toler said. “Hostess has built a tremendous team, and it has been a privilege and honor to work with them. They have contributed so significantly to our success and transformation. I will leave with great confidence in their abilities and the company’s continued success.”