CHARLOTTE -- The new CEO at Charlotte-based Chiquita Brands says he's confident the company will recover from falling profits. But after a few days on the job, Ed Lonergan says he still has a lot to learn.
Lonergan admits there's a lot he doesn't know about bananas.
"I have a lot to learn here because I have a dictionary...with all the terms about bananas," said the new CEO of Chiquita Brands.
He said his team has the business experience it'll take to turn the company around.
"I came here because I have passion for the legacy of this brand and the future potential it has," he said.
Wednesday, after two official days on the job, Lonergan met with hundreds of employees and then with the media to lay out his vision for the company.
"Not having surprises from your leadership is important," he said.
Chiquita's board replaced CEO Fernando Aguirre after months of tumbling sales. The company reported $6 million in second quarter earnings this year compared to $78 million during the same period in 2011.
"The market has changed around us," Lonergan said.
Lonergan will preside over a $60 million annual cost-cutting plan that pivots the company's focus toward its core business lines.
"The beauty of this business is we sell good stuff that people like to eat and there's not many place in the world where that happens," he said.
Lonergan, who most recently was CEO of an industrial cleaning product company, plans to move to Charlotte with his wife. They have two grown daughters. He promised to continue Chiquita's outreach to the community.
"I really believe in the constituency of the community and we need to make Charlotte a better place because we are here," he said.
Lonergan will earn a base salary of $900,000 with the possibility of a bonus.
Aguierre leaves with a $4.7 million severance package and a deal to consult for Chiquita for a year, making $40,000 per month.