Steve Demos plans to tour the world, then start another organic business after abruptly resigning as president of White Wave Foods March 14.
Dean Foods announced that Demos had "resigned to pursue other opportunities."
One day after resigning, Demos answered the phone at his home, "Icarus!"
But he said he intends to resemble not just Icarus, who in Greek mythology flew too close to the sun on wings of wax, but Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead.
"I wasn't doing this as a job, I was doing this as a mission," he said. He had already received several job offers the morning the story hit the papers, and he said that both he and White Wave will be fine.
"It really is a business with a soul, regardless of the vagaries of big business, small business, whatever size of business. That's a noble effort that we're undertaking."
Before entertaining offers, Demos and his wife, Sheryl Lamb, plan to travel. He joked about a "Free Steve World Tour" complete with T-shirts. "A lot of the power points of the earth I've never been to -- the pyramids, Machu Picchu. I want to go back and spend some more time in India."
Gregg Engles, who heads parent company Dean Foods of Dallas, described Demos as "a gifted entrepreneur" who "built Silk into a formidable brand." Dean, parent company of White Wave, said it has retained a search firm to find "a seasoned leader with deep consumer-packaged-goods expertise." Engles will run White Wave until then.
The Boulder Daily Camera reported that Demos was offered a lesser position, declined it and resigned. Chief Financial Officer Pat Calhoun also said she would leave White Wave at the end of March.
Spokeswoman Molly Keveney said the team at White Wave intends to continue building the business according to Demos' founding principles. "He is an incredible visionary," she said.
Demos started White Wave in 1977 and sold it to Dean in 2002. In August, Dean said it would combine three branded businesses, including White Wave and Horizon Organics, into a $1.2 billion division based in Boulder, Colo.
That initiative, including a move to new headquarters in Broomfield, Colo., remains on track, Keveney said.
In the meantime, Demos said, "I'm going to Tahiti. What?s wrong with that?"