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Legacy Rooted in Family

Once she was a Battle Creek reporter charged with covering Kellogg Co. Now the first Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for the new WK Kellogg Co, Stacy Flathau shares her story and her view of the spinoff.

Stacy Flathau is a daughter of Battle Creek, Michigan, the birthplace of breakfast cereal, and a daughter of a cereal maker. A former reporter for the Battle Creek Enquirer charged with covering Kellogg Company has come full circle, serving as the first Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for WK Kellogg Co. This account is drawn from her interviews with Brunswick Partners Jayne Rosefield and Monica Gupta.

I was born and raised in Battle Creek, where more than a century ago William Keith Kellogg started Kellogg Company. My family lives here. My husband is from Battle Creek. We’ve raised our children here. I have a long list of relatives who have worked in cereal manufacturing in Battle Creek—parents, grandparents, and others. And long before I had a leadership role at WK Kellogg Co, I spent four summers making cereal myself, during college. That is what my family does. We make cereal in some way, shape, or form. Which is not unlike other families in Battle Creek. That heritage and that history is here.

Kellogg is woven into the fabric of Battle Creek, also known as the Cereal City. My husband works for Kellogg Community College. We go walking on the weekends in Kellogg Forest. Kellogg Arena is where I saw my first concert. As a kid, all of my dance recitals and band concerts were held at W.K. Kellogg Auditorium, and I graduated on that stage. Kellogg is just part of who we are.

Almost 15 years ago, I left a career in local journalism for Kellogg Company, when Kris Bahner offered me a role on her Corporate Communications team. It was a big change, a big opportunity, and the right decision. Fast forward to 2022, when Gary called to offer me the role of Chief Corporate Affairs Officer for WK Kellogg Co. We had already worked together for 14 years and we’ve had countless phone calls, countless conversations. We know each other … there is an ease, a shorthand. But this call was different. This conversation was new and it marked a turning point in my career, a high point in my life, and it’s a moment I will not forget.

Of course, for about 18 months all of the newly named WK leaders held two positions—our emerging roles at WK Kellogg Co, and our roles at Kellogg. Corporate Affairs was relatively lean at Kellogg—just as it is at WK today—and often during this period there appeared to be more to do than time and resources to do it. But when that happens, you find another gear. We were standing up a brand-new company in our founder’s name, and we had to get it right. I had to get it right. For the company, for my team, for our leaders. And as importantly, for my community and for my family.


Stacy Flathau, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, WK Kellogg Co.

Because of Battle Creek’s relationship with the company, there’s a sense of ownership here. Not of entitlement, but of respect for Kellogg’s long and deep involvement in the community. There’s an expectation that local leaders hear directly from Kellogg if significant change is afoot and during this split, we communicated with them regularly, as we have done for years.

As a Battle Creek native, I understand the local expectation to know what’s going on with the company before the rest of the world does. On three different occasions, we brought in a group of community leaders for conversations with Steve Cahillane, our Kellogg Company Chairman and CEO, so that they could ask him questions directly, and to meet Gary Pilnick, our WK Kellogg Co Chairman and CEO, in person.

It’s important to note that, when we first made the announcement, there was a period of mourning both for Battle Creek and for employees who live here. Kellogg was 117 years old and there was the realization that the company, as it existed that day, wasn’t going to exist forever. I remember very clearly the moment it got real for me. I had been working on the spin for a couple of weeks, and in a quiet moment alone, it occurred to me that I would not retire from Kellogg Company. My heart sank. Because, while that was never a guarantee, it was the dream and it felt like loss. We knew others would feel the same, of course, so one important thing we did in terms of communication was to give that a beat, let it sink in. It was OK to be sad, for a minute.

One of my favorite moments came when we announced the new name for the North American cereal business: WK Kellogg Co. We shared the news first with employees at a town hall. And the place erupted. People were cheering. People were crying.

Then we quickly pivoted to what Kellogg was going to be like as two separate companies. The prospect and the opportunity were truly exciting. One of my favorite moments came when we announced the new name for the North American cereal business: WK Kellogg Co. We shared the news first with employees at a town hall. And the place erupted. People were cheering. People were crying. For the community, this news about the preservation of the founder’s name confirmed that we were going to stay in Battle Creek. No less importantly, it confirmed that we were committing to Mr. Kellogg’s original business, which is revered here in Battle Creek.

From there, our communications objective was to provide clarity and build confidence. You do that by showing up, by answering questions, by meeting and talking one-on-one with employees. The entire leadership team has traveled to all six of our manufacturing plants—more than once. We did this, consistently, for months all the while transferring knowledge, building new teams, and transitioning away from our Kellogg Company day-to-day.

And then came listing day—the day WK Kellogg Co officially came to life. Standing in front of the iconic New York Stock Exchange and watching them unfurl that WK Kellogg Co banner was beyond moving. Our employees celebrated back home, hosting watch parties to see Gary ring the opening bell. It was a moment none of us will soon forget. But even better was coming home to Battle Creek and having our colleagues, friends, and families gathered on the back lawn at headquarters to celebrate. That was everything.

We really wanted to impress upon employees that it was WK Kellogg Co’s Founders Day, and that they were all founders of this brand-new company. We created a special Founders Day pin that we presented in person during visits to all six plants and to our teams in Battle Creek. And we announced a Founders Day grant: 25 shares of the new company for every employee on listing day.

It’s been a few months—it’s a new year—and while we are laser focused on our strategic priorities and the future, we continue to get positive feedback about those celebrations. About how we brought WK Kellogg Co to life. That day with our colleagues and our families celebrating our first day as WK Kellogg Co. We’re planning to make it an annual tradition so that we never lose sight of what we accomplished together as a WK family. As a community.

Also in the Brunswick Review: interviewed Steve Cahillane, Chairman and CEO of Kellanova, Gary Pilnick, Chairman and CEO of WK Kellogg Co, and Kris Bahner, Chief Global Corporate Affairs Officer for Kellanova.


photographs courtesy of wk kellogg co.

The Authors

Jayne Rosefield

Senior Partner, Chicago

Jayne is the founding partner and head of Brunswick’s Chicago office. She also leads Brunswick's Global Consumer Industries practice and has a wealth of experience helping clients navigate perennial reputational challenges unique to the sector.

Monica Gupta

Partner, Chicago

Monica Gupta is a partner at Brunswick Group, where she leads complex client mandates involving business transformations, change communications, investor engagement and M&A across industries and sectors.