THERE IS A FOOT OF SNOW ON HIS front lawn in White Plains, N.Y., and Robert Holland Jr. is making the most of it. “Look at us!” he cries, whipping a snowball at daughter Jackie, 16. “We’re an athletic family—and we still eat ice cream!”
They won’t be stopping anytime soon. Holland, 54, is the new CEO of Ben & Jerry’s, the Waterbury, Vt.-based ice-cream company known for its social activism as well as its Cherry Garcia. Discovered by a corporate headhunter, Holland landed the $250,000-a-year job, says cofounder Ben Cohen, because of his “character, experience and passion for social causes.”
Holland still remembers the ice-cream parlor in his hometown of Albion, Mich.—not surprising, since he was kept out of it as a child because of his race. “Not being able to sit at that counter caused a stirring that this had to change,” he says. After earning an MBA at Manhattan’s Bernard Baruch College, he worked as a management consultant and ran a plastics company in Detroit before starting his own acquisition and consulting firm in 1991 in White Plains.
Holland’s arrival comes as Ben & Jerry’s struggles to maintain sales in a diet-conscious market. The company posted its first loss ever—about $800,000—last quarter. (Jerry Greenfield withdrew from daily operations and is now a board member; Cohen, citing his lack of management skills, will do the same.) Holland plans to beat the problem with new products and overseas expansion. As he packs for Vermont (wife Barbara, 51, will stay in White Plains until Jackie graduates, and son Robb, 27, and daughter Kheri, 24, no longer live at home), Holland can start worrying about reconciling the bottom line with his waistline. “At one time ice cream was the only dessert I ate,” he says. “That cycle is back. Happy days are here again!”