Ben & Jerry's sues parent company Unilever over the sale of Israeli business

Ben & Jerry's sues Unilever over Israeli business sale

July 7, 2022: -Ben & Jerry’s is suing parent company Unilever is stopping the sale of its Israeli business to a local licensee, a move the consumer products giant says that it would keep the ice cream products in stock in Israel and its occupied territories.

Ben & Jerry’s says that in a lawsuit filed in federal court in New York Tuesday that Unilever’s decision is making without the approval of its independent board, which is responsible for safeguarding the integrity of its brand’s name.

On Tuesday, the judge denied Ben & Jerry’s application for a temporary restraining order but passed an order to Unilever to show cause by July 14 for why a preliminary injunction should not be issued.

In a statement, Unilever said that “the deal has already closed” and does not comment on pending litigation. A Ben & Jerry’s representative did not respond to a request for comment.

The suit marks the recent development in a controversy placed off last year when Ben & Jerry’s said it would pause its sales in the West Bank territory occupied by Israel since the Six-Day war in 1967.

Israel’s government focuses on the occupied territories as part of its economy, and efforts to boycott business in the areas are seen as committing to the country. Stopping sales of the ice cream in the occupied territories would have finished its sales throughout Israel.

In its suit, Ben & Jerry’s says that its brand is “synonymous with social activism” and that as part of its deal to be acquired by Unilever in 2000, it is reserved that the “primary responsibility for safeguarding the integrity” of the Ben & Jerry’s brand through its independent board.

It stated that Unilever had recognized the brand’s right to make decisions regarding its social mission. But Ben & Jerry’s said Unilever “abruptly reversed course.”

Last week, Unilever announced that it sold the Israeli branch of its Ben & Jerry’s business to American Quality Products, licensing the ice cream products in Israel. American Quality added that it would continue selling Ben & Jerry’s in the Hebrew and Arabic names throughout Israel and its occupied territories.

Even after the right of Ben & Jerry’s independent board to make decisions about the brand’s social mission, Unilever announced that the sale that it had the right to agree because it had reserved primary responsibility for the decisions of financial and operational.

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