Work at Play: UVA Darden Grad Takes Helm as CEO of Leading Toymaker

22 July 2020

By Jay Hodgkins

University of Virginia Darden School of Business alumnus Fernando Mercé (MBA ‘98) left a successful tenure as a senior executive with one of the world’s largest consumer packaged goods companies in February 2020 to become CEO of a firm with a more niche group of consumers: Melissa & Doug LLC, a Connecticut-based toy manufacturer owned by private equity firm AEA Investors.

Mercé, who left his previous post as the CEO of Nestlé Waters North America, discussed his new role with Melissa & Doug in a new profile on the Alumni Spotlight section of Darden’s website.

“It’s a purpose-driven company, and AEA believes in that mission,” he said. “I always get to know the investors or leadership behind a company when I’m looking at a new opportunity. When the people you’re working with demonstrate a passion for doing what’s right for humanity, then business discussions won’t be about whether or not to do those things, but rather how we’re going to do them.”

He also talked about his accomplishments leading Nestlé Waters North America to reduce its environmental footprint.

While bottled water isn’t generally an industry associated with environmental stewardship, Mercé used his broad-based educational background to steer Nestlé Waters North America toward a more sustainable path.

An industrial engineer by training, Mercé’s team was able to look at and help reimagine every step of the lifecycle of a plastic bottle. “For every bottle we sold, we aspired to collect and process another bottle,” he said. “You need a functioning circular economy to get that done. You need to support collection, recycling and buyers of recycled plastic.”

The company became a leader in the design and implementation of fully recyclable bottles made from 100 percent recycled plastic (rPET), he said, using plastic, labels and glue that could be thrown into the existing recycling processes without contaminating the end product.

“By the time I left, we were aggressively moving to record levels of rPET in all of our bottles,” he said.

Read the full profile on Darden’s Alumni Spotlight. 

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D., MSBA and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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