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John Kerry potential winner in Heinz deal


The $23-billion takeover of H J Heinz on Thursday featured a familiar cast of characters save for one unlikely victor: Secretary of State John Kerry. Mr Kerry — married to Teresa Heinz Kerry, an heir to the Heinz ketchup fortune — held $3 million worth of shares in the company last year, according to an analysis of disclosure forms by the Center for Responsive Politics. Unless he since sold off the stake, Kerry is likely to reap hundreds of thousands of dollars. Mrs. Heinz Kerry also has significant stakes in the condiment maker. She inherited the fortune from her previous husband, H John Heinz III, a Republican senator who died in a 1991 plane crash.

When Mr Kerry, a Democratic senator for more than two decades, took over the State Department this month, he vowed to shed some private investments. So did Mrs Heinz Kerry.

But the divestitures, coming within 90 days of him taking office, are largely unrelated to Heinz. Mr Kerry will forfeit his stake in Apple, Goldman Sachs and other corporate giants, but a recent ethics form made no mention of his Heinz shares.

As for Mrs. Heinz Kerry, she remains a beneficiary of various family trusts, in which the largest investment is Heinz stock. She did agree to forgo her investment in the Heinz Family Group, an unrelated private firm.

The reluctance to part ways with Heinz shares could have something to do with their recent performance. Since filing his last Congressional disclosure in August, when he owned a $3 million piece of the company, the shares skyrocketed some 30 percent. On Thursday, after the deal was announced, shares jumped nearly 20 percent, to over $72.

It is unclear whether Mr. Kerry sold any part of the stake since the August disclosure. The State Department did not immediately return a request for comment.

In recent weeks, Mr. Kerry promised to recuse himself from "certain matters involving" the company. He would do so, the ethics form said, "as a matter of prudence."

But the policy has loopholes. He can weigh in on Heinz with the blessing of ethics officials.

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First Published: Sat, February 16 2013. 20:21 IST