Yesterday’s New York Times ran a story on the plight of former Bimbo executive Chris Botticella. Get your mind out of the gutter, this isn’t an Ed Wood novel. That’s Grupo Bimbo, the giant Mexican food company, which bought Thomas’s English Muffins in early 2009. The 56-year-old Botticella was a Bimbo bakery operations executive with a reported salary of a quarter-mil which, in January, he gave up for a salary of $200,000 a year at, you guessed, it Hostess, telling his old coworkers he was retiring, not going to the competition. From Bimbo’s perspective, this puts the safety of the free world at risk.
The reason for all the ominous music? The recipe for Thomas’s English muffins. Apparently it’s a closely-guarded secret, kept in a secure “code book,” isolated and split up so bakery workers only know a small part of the process and only seven Bimbo executives know the whole recipe. Otherwise, says the Times, the competition would know how to produce those coveted nooks and crannies, and the market’s reported “$500 million” in English Muffin sales could slip out of Grupo Bimbo’s buttery fingers.
Bimbo execs are claiming that when they confronted Botticella just before he left about rumors he was going to Hostess, Botticella responded by secretly copying a bunch of secure files, covered under his confidentiality agreement with Bimbo, onto a flash drive. Botticella’s story, according to the Times? He was practicing his computer skills in preparation for his new job. Of course!
Bimbo got a court order prohibiting Botticella from moving over to Hostess, who then withdrew their offer. Hostess claims their offer to Botticella required him not to divulge any trade secrets.
Meanwhile, there’s some debate as to whether the Thomas’s formula is really all that valuable. The Times article quotes two authorities of wildly differing opinions as to if there’s a Thomas’s secret, or if it’s just a matter of having water that makes, you know, bubbles. AKA nooks and crannies.