Miyoko’s Creamery CEO Miyoko Schinner ousted, sued for allegedly stealing company property

Board members filed a civil lawsuit Thursday that alleged Miyoko Schinner stole company property, including “its trade secrets and confidential information.”|

Sonoma County entrepreneur and Miyoko’s Creamery CEO Miyoko Schinner was cooking dinner for 150 people Feb. 16 when the announcement of her ouster as chief executive of the company she founded in 2014 was first made public.

Schinner confirmed her June 2022 termination from the Petaluma-based company in a LinkedIn post a day later.

The creamery announced Chief Financial Officer Jon Blair would take over as interim president until a new CEO is found.

“As we worked to grow the business, conflict grew around the best path forward for future growth while continuing to live our values, founded on the principles of veganism and animal rights, as well as our B Corp status,” Schinner said in her LinkedIn post.

On the same day of the news release, Miyoko’s Creamery board members filed a lawsuit that alleged Schinner stole company property after she was terminated from her position.

Requests for comment were not returned by Schinner or representatives of Miyoko’s Creamery.

The lawsuit

Board members filed a civil lawsuit Thursday in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California in San Francisco that alleged Schinner stole company property, including “its trade secrets and confidential information.”

The complaint also alleges that Schinner tried to cover her tracks by deleting her activity from company devices.

The filed complaint also disclosed Schinner’s performance as CEO and how she “proved time and again that she could not manage a rapidly expanding business and could not correct performance deficiencies.”

Schinner said she has cooperated with the company since her termination.

“There are wild untruths about me that are designed to destroy me and get me out of the way,” Schinner said in a second LinkedIn post Sunday in response to the suit.

“I fail to see how this is adding value to the brand that I — and other values-driven, passionate vegan former employees — worked so hard to build,” she added.

Schinner removed as CEO

Schinner revolutionized vegan alternatives for cheeses and butters by using plant-based milk in her recipes, with her products available in over 20,000 retailers nationwide, such as Target and Whole Foods, according to the company’s website.

She founded the company in 2014 in Marin County and in 2017 moved it to Petaluma. Schinner had since expanded the line of products to include vegan butter, cheese wheels, cream cheese, mozzarella and more.

According to the official complaint, Schinner was removed from her position as CEO in June 2022. Discussions then began as to what her future would be with the company.

“We did not arrive at this point by my choosing,” Schinner said in her first LinkedIn post.

“That we find ourselves here is representative of the extent to which my views and approach have not always prevailed, especially in the past two years.“

The complaint alleges that the Miyoko’s Creamery board wanted to keep Schinner as CEO because she founded the company. However, the complaint continued, Schinner had not met performance and financial targets and expectations set by the board, which voted unanimously to remove her from her position.

Company appoints interim president

Schinner’s departure came amid a time of growth for the company, according to the news release.

“We continue to be driven by our core company values of craft, compassion, conviviality and courage, with these principles as our guiding light for future growth to come in the coming months and years,” Blair, the company’s interim president, said in the release.

Miyoko’s says it has plans to expand the accessibility of its current portfolio of vegan cheeses and butters along with innovating products with “simple, vegan ingredients, time-honored techniques and delicious flavors.”

“We are excited to continue and expand upon our brand mission and uphold our certified B Corporation of innovating products that only contain plant ingredients that are better for human health,” Blair said.

What’s next?

Schinner hasn’t announced what her next moves are, but she wished the company her best while staying true to its fundamentals.

“Whatever is next, I wish the best for the company I founded, led and grew,” she said in her LinkedIn post.

“I hope you continue to fight with me to create an equitable and just food system that saves animals, creates opportunities for independent producers, and helps ensure nutritious, delicious, and compassionate food is meaningfully accessible to all,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Sara Edwards at 707-521-5487 or sara.edwards@pressdemocrat. com. On Twitter @sedwards380.

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