At least five directors left the board of food startup Hampton Creek Inc., many in the last month, over deep discord with co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Josh Tetrick, said people familiar with the matter. Tetrick is now the only remaining board member, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private.
Departures include Bon Appétit Management Co. co-founder and CEO Fedele Bauccio, former U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Google DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman and Khosla Ventures partner Samir Kaul, said the people. Bart Swanson, who represented Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Horizons Ventures, also left. Lynne Benioff, the wife of Salesforce.com Inc.’s chief executive officer, stepped down from the board last year.
Tetrick described the board changes as a way to give more power to staff. “Ensuring our employees maintain their ability to direct our mission is as critical as the technologies we deploy and the products we launch,” Tetrick wrote in an emailed statement. “We will always protect this principle.”
In an email, a spokesman said on behalf of outgoing directors: “We continue to fully support Hampton Creek and its CEO Josh in their exciting and important mission to change the food industry for the better of all people. We will advise Josh and the team on strategies across all areas of its business moving forward.”
Each director either declined to comment or couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Hampton Creek was a young star in Silicon Valley when it began working on an eggless mayonnaise product in 2011. Led by CEO Tetrick, the San Francisco-based company attracted strong support from venture capitalists, raising more than $220 million since it was founded.
But investors began to waver following a string of controversies last year, including a Bloomberg report showing Hampton Creek quietly bought back its own products from supermarkets. The buybacks prompted federal inquiries, which concluded without finding wrongdoing, according to the company. Last month, Target Corp. said it would start removing Hampton Creek products from its stores, citing allegations of food safety concerns.
The startup has seen an exodus from its senior ranks. Tetrick fired several of his deputies in April amid fundraising struggles. Soon after, three top executives left the company, which Hampton Creek described as a failed attempt at a coup.