John P. Bilbrey succeeds James E. Nevels, who will become lead independent director at Hershey.

HERSHEY, PA. — John P. Bilbrey, president and chief executive officer of the Hershey Co., has been elected by the company’s board of directors to serve as chairman, effective immediately. Mr. Bilbrey will continue his current role with the company, which he has held since May 2011. He succeeds James E. Nevels, Hershey’s chairman since February 2009, who will become lead independent director at Hershey.

Mr. Nevels proposed combining the offices of c.e.o. and chairman in a presentation to the board, underscoring confidence in Mr. Bilbrey and the existing management team. Under Mr. Bilbrey’s leadership, the confectionery company has generated strong financial results, expanded its global footprint and positioned itself to seize new growth opportunities.

“It is a privilege and honor to succeed Jim as chairman,” Mr. Bilbrey said. “On behalf of all of our employees, I’d like to thank Jim for his partnership and the solid contributions he has made as chairman over the last six years as we transformed Hershey into a growth company. Our financial strength, global reach and vision, as well as great brands and experienced management team provide a strong foundation for the future of the Hershey Co. I look forward to working closely with Jim in his new role as lead independent director.”