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Ben & Jerry’s sues Unilever over sale of Israeli business

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Ben & Jerry’s filed suit against its parent company Unilever on Tuesday in an effort to dam its sale of the Vermont-based brand’s Israel business to a neighborhood franchisee.

The left-leaning ice cream brand, which is thought for championing liberal causes, alleged in a criticism filed in US District Court in Manhattan that Unilever’s “unilateral decision” was made without board consent.

The ice cream company said an injunction blocking the sale was “essential to preserve the established order and protect the brand and social integrity Ben & Jerry’s has spent a long time constructing.”

Ben & Jerry’s board of directors voted 5-2 last Friday to authorize a legal filing against Unilever, in keeping with details included within the brand’s criticism. The dissenters were two directors appointed by Unilever.

The corporate asked a federal judge to dam the transfer of Ben & Jerry’s trademark and brand rights to any entity that may sell the product or use its logo within the West Bank without prior board approval.

Representatives for Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever didn’t immediately return requests for comment on the lawsuit.

Unilever bought Ben & Jerry’s in 2000.AFP via Getty Images

Last week, Unilever said it had reached an agreement to sell its Ben & Jerry’s business in Israel to its current local franchisee, Avi Zinger, and his firm, American Quality Products Inc.

The corporate noted Ben & Jerry’s board retained rights related to its “social mission” but noted, “Unilever reserved primary responsibility for financial and operational decisions and due to this fact has the appropriate to enter this arrangement.”

Ben & Jerry’s founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, sold the corporate to Unilever in 2000 for $326 million.

“Unilever has used the chance of the past yr to hearken to perspectives on this complex and sensitive matter and believes that is one of the best final result for Ben & Jerry’s in Israel,” the conglomerate said in a press release on the sale. “The review included extensive consultation over several months, including with the Israeli government.”

Ben & Jerry'sBen & Jerry’s has argued the sale runs contrary to its values.AFP via Getty Images

In July 2019, the ice cream brand said it could end sales of its products in Jewish settlements within the occupied West Bank. Zinger recently reached a settlement with Ben & Jerry’s for declining to renew his license, in keeping with Reuters.  

The Israeli government lauded the sale as a victory over “antisemites.” However the transaction drew a pointy public rebuke from Ben & Jerry’s.

The ice cream maker’s lawsuit got here just days after the corporate said a sale ran contrary to the brand’s beliefs.

“We proceed to consider it’s inconsistent with Ben & Jerry’s values for our ice cream to be sold within the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” the corporate said in a press release.

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