August 6, 2021

Robert Schaeberle, Nabisco Chief, Dies at 88

The cause was complications of Alzheimer’s disease, his son Robert said.

Mr. Schaeberle, who was with Nabisco for 40 years, became president and chief executive in 1976. He was at the helm when it merged with Standard Brands in 1981 and four years later when it merged with the R. J. Reynolds tobacco company.

When Nabisco joined Standard Brands, creating what was renamed Nabisco Brands, it brought together two powerful business executives who would try — in the end not successfully — to share leadership: Mr. Schaeberle as chairman and F. Ross Johnson as president.

At the time, both companies were ranked among the top 10 in the processed food industry. Besides its signature brands Ritz and Oreo, Nabisco brought to the merger Lorna Doone, Uneeda and Cream of Wheat, while Standard Brands was marketing Planters, Baby Ruth, Butterfinger and Fleischmann’s margarine, among other products. The new company’s first big step was the $251 million acquisition of Life Savers.

By the time Nabisco Brands was acquired by R. J. Reynolds in 1985, it had sales of $6.25 billion and net income of $308.9 million. But by then the relationship between Mr. Schaeberle and Mr. Johnson, known for his aggressive leadership style, had frayed.

“On paper Schaeberle remained top executive of Nabisco Brands, but Johnson found it easy to get his way,” Bryan Burrough and John Helyar wrote in their best-selling 1990 book, “Barbarians at the Gate: The Fall of RJR Nabisco.” “Slowly but surely,” the book continued, “Johnson closed his grip around Schaeberle’s company. One by one, veteran Nabisco executives began to vanish, replaced by Johnson men.”

When R. J. Reynolds acquired the company, Mr. Johnson was named chief executive of RJR Nabisco; Mr. Schaeberle became chairman of its Nabisco Brands division.

Mr. Schaeberle retired in December 1986.

By 1988, Mr. Johnson was trying to buy control of the entire company, working with the private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. When talks between the two sides fell apart, Nabisco became the subject of a bidding war whose fierceness surprised even Wall Street.

That battle, joined by nearly every major investment bank and private equity firm of the day, culminated in a showdown between Mr. Johnson and his erstwhile partners at K.K.R. Ultimately, K.K.R. prevailed with a $25 billion bid, setting a record for leveraged buyouts that was unsurpassed for 19 years. It soon began selling pieces of RJR Nabisco, including brands like Baby Ruth and Shredded Wheat.

“Bob Schaeberle was practically in tears about the breakup of Nabisco,” Mr. Burrough and Mr. Helyar wrote.

What remained of Nabisco was acquired by Philip Morris in 2000.

Robert Martin Schaeberle was born in Newark on Jan. 2, 1923, the son of Frederick and Bertha Thielman Schaeberle. After serving in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II, he earned a bachelor’s degree at Dartmouth and was soon a Nabisco trainee.

Mr. Schaeberle’s first wife, the former Barbara Slockbower, died in 1981. His second, the former Barbara Peace, died in 2003. Besides his son Robert, he is survived by two other sons, Mark and Gregg; six grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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Jury Rejects Missouri Hospitals’ Case Against Tobacco Firms

About 40 Missouri hospitals sued the Philip Morris unit of the Altria Group, the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, the Lorillard Tobacco Company and other cigarette makers in 1998, claiming they manipulated the nicotine content in cigarettes and misrepresented the health effects of smoking. The hospitals were seeking more than $455 million in damages, ranging from about $300,000 for some hospitals to $86.4 million for the Truman Medical Center in Kansas City, Mo.

The hospitals argued that the industry’s actions had raised spending for unreimbursed and uncompensated tobacco-related health care. The tobacco companies denied any responsibility for patient care costs at the hospitals or any financial losses by the hospitals. The jury, in Missouri Circuit Court in St. Louis, rejected the hospitals’ claims on a 9-3 vote Friday in the seventh day of deliberations.

“The jury correctly rejected the entirety of the hospital’s claims,” Murray Garnick, associate general counsel for Altria Client Services, said in a statement. The jury agreed with Philip Morris “that ordinary cigarettes are not negligently designed or defective,” he said.

The hospitals haven’t decided whether to appeal, their lawyer, Kenneth Brostron, said.

The case is the third such health care cost-recovery claim to reach trial, according to regulatory filings by Altria. The tobacco industry won the first, in Ohio, in 1999. The second initially resulted in a $17.8 million award for a health insurer by a New York jury in 2001. That was reversed on appeal in 2004.

The Missouri suit, which did not include patients as plaintiffs, went to trial in January.

The hospitals, which provide care to indigent patients and others who do not pay, represent the majority of licensed, adult acute care hospital beds in Missouri, according to the complaint. The hospitals said medical ethics required them to serve people in need regardless of their ability to pay.

Tobacco companies should reimburse the hospitals for care provided to patients who were unable to pay and were suffering from tobacco-related illness, the plaintiffs said. Hospitals also should “recover the increased costs incurred to providing all health care services” as a result of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke, according to the complaint.

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