Wednesday, May 23, 2007

"Michelle Obama quits board of Wal-Mart supplier"

Lynn Sweet (Chicago Sun-Times):
Michelle Obama resigned Tuesday from the board of TreeHouse Foods Inc., a Wal-Mart vendor, eight days after husband and White House hopeful Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said he would not shop at the anti-union store.
Obama has been a director of the suburban Westchester food maker since June 27, 2005. Board chairman Sam Reed received a resignation letter from Obama Tuesday. The company said she quit because of “increased demands” on her time. Obama was re-elected to the board April 19 for a term ending in 2010 — during a period she was preparing to take on a larger role in the campaign.

In a statement issued by the campaign, Obama said, “As my campaign commitments continue to ramp up, it is becoming more difficult for me to provide the type of focus I would like on my professional responsibilities." She said it was in “the best interests of my family and the company” she quit.

Wal-Mart is a target of organized labor in the U.S., a Democratic constituency playing a key role in determining the 2008 Democratic nominee. Obama’s link to Wal-Mart through TreeHouse was a potential liability for Sen. Obama. On May 14, during an AFL-CIO forum in Trenton, N.J., Sen. Obama was asked about Wal-Mart. “I won’t shop there,” he said. Chief rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) served on the Wal-Mart board between 1986 and 1992.

In a SEC filing, TreeHouse stated Obama’s resignation “is not due to any disagreement with the company on any matter.’’

According to the Obamas’ income tax returns, Michelle Obama collected $51,200 from TreeHouse in 2006. She leaves the board with an option to buy 2,266 TreeHouse shares at a strike price of $29.65. Shares closed at $28.10 Tuesday.

Obama’s resignation from the lucrative part-time position comes as she cutback her hours as a University of Chicago Hospitals vice president by 80 percent.

To showcase Obama’s role as chief surrogate for her husband, the campaign has orchestrated a high-profile media blitz in recent weeks.

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