Chiquita Undercover Boss
Undercover Boss
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Undercover Boss

Undercover Boss: Chairman and CEO of Chiquita Brands International: Where are They Now?

When the chairman and CEO of Chiquita Brands International went undercover, he learned that none of his employees would want to hire him!

Season: 2
Episode: 6
Company Name: Chiquita Brands International  
Undercover Boss: Fernando Aguirre
Are They Still There?: No 

For the chairman and CEO of Chiquita Brands International, everything in his life and career is about the American dream. Fernando Aguirre was born in Mexico City and came to the United States when he was 17 to play baseball. Eventually, he was able to get his American citizenship and started a family of his own. When he filmed this episode of “Undercover Boss,” Fernando was chairman and CEO of Chiquita Brands International. 

Chiquita Brands International is one of the largest producers and distributors of fruits and vegetables in the world and the parent company of Fresh Express, which produces and distributes pre-packaged salads. If you like bananas, you’ve probably had some from Chiquita! Fernando is a strict boss who runs a tight ship, and he decides to go undercover to see if his employees are working at the level he expects. His wife helps him dye his hair so he can transform into an out-of-work immigrant named Manuel while he is undercover. Then, he’s ready to start his journey! 

Job #1: Distribution Center in Boston, Massachusetts 

This massive distribution center in Boston is the final stop for Chiquita bananas before they get delivered to grocery stores. It’s important for the boss to see how they can increase productivity in the final step of the distribution system. Little did Fernando know, his presence would only delay operations. 

For his first shift, Fernando worked with a warehouse supervisor who was also named Fernando to inspect fruit and unload trucks. Normally, the warehouse supervisor could unload a truck in under 20 minutes. But when the boss gets involved and tries to use a forklift, the process takes hours. The job is physically demanding, and Chiquita’s leader just can’t keep up with his employees. Eventually, Fernando gets frustrated and tells Mr. Aguirre that he is done for the day. 

Job #2: Fresh Express Processing Center Salinas, California 

At this massive processing center, Fresh Express produces more than 300 million bags of pre-packaged salads per year. Fernando wants to know what makes this flagship factory work so well, as well as how the brand could potentially be expanded internationally. For this shift, Fernando works under the supervision of Magic, a produce dryer operator. Magic shows Fernando how to dry heavy barrels of lettuce, and it’s a job that is much harder than it sounds. If the employees don’t work quickly enough, barrels of lettuce overflow and pieces fall on the ground, making the product unusable and wasting money. It’s a very demanding and physical job. 

When it becomes clear that drying lettuce is too fast-paced for Fernando to handle, Magic decides to show him how to fill boxes for shipping the salads instead. But once again, Fernando can’t keep up with the fast pace. Fernando gets frustrated and starts snapping at other employees. Magic says in an off-screen interview that he would have written Fernando up for his bad attitude if he was the supervisor. 

But things do finally calm down when Fernando and Magic go outside to eat lunch. Magic tells Fernando about his two young children and his wife. He also shares that company cutbacks and layoffs have caused him to get demoted and take a pay cut, but that he is ultimately grateful to have his job. Fernando admires his employee’s good attitude and work ethic. Fernando ends the conversation by asking Magic if he would hire him, but the kind employee doesn’t answer and smiles awkwardly. In a separate interview, Magic revealed that he felt Fernando would do better in an office job. 

Job #3: Chiquita Port Facility in Delaware 

For his third job, this boss wants to see how all of Chiquita’s port facilities could operate as effectively as this major port in Delaware. He works with a dispatcher named Anna to print receipts that are sent out with each truck. This process helps make sure the trucks are loaded with the correct produce and are sent to the right place. The system for preparing the paperwork requires a lot of manual data entry, attention to detail, and multitasking — something that Fernando seems to really struggle with. 

By the end of his shift, Fernando has created a major delay for Anna to deal with as well. While the pair ultimately had fun discussing topics like Anna’s love for dogs, her dislike for bananas, and company benefits, they weren’t very productive. When Fernando asks Anna if she thinks he could do her job, she politely says that he isn’t right for her role but she thinks there would be a place for him within the company.

Job #4: Fresh Express Lettuce Field in Salinas, CA

The boss was very excited about his final job undercover. He would be joining his employees in the field to harvest lettuce, many of whom were Hispanic immigrants who were taking their first steps toward citizenship and following the American dream. For this shift, Fernando is paired with Leo, the lettuce harvest coordinator and a Mexican man trying to become a citizen.

Leo is a great trainer and does a good job showing Fernando how to cut and check the lettuce, take out the cores, and insert them into a cleaning machine. But like in his other jobs, Fernando cannot keep up with the fast pace. He slows the team down so much that the entire operation grinds to a halt. 

Even though he wasn’t cut out for this type of work, Fernando enjoys this job because he got to connect with Leo. The employee told Fernando how he spends 6 months of the year away from his family working in the fields in California while they live in Arizona. But he is proud to make that sacrifice because he is providing for his family and trying to pursue a better life for his loved ones.

The Big Reveal: 

Although he ends his week on “Undercover Boss,” feeling both physically and mentally exhausted, Fernando felt it was a great journey where he got to meet many of the unsung heroes within the company. It inspired him to be a better executive and to help give people opportunities since he was lucky enough to have his own American Dream come true. Fernando summons the employees to Chiquita headquarters, who all think they are coming to discuss his performance as Manuel. Instead, he blows their minds by revealing he is actually the CEO. 

Making fun of how poor his performance was while using the forklift, the CEO shows his employee that he really did get certified to use a forklift prior to his shift at the distribution center. All jokes aside, Mr. Aguirre tells Fernando that he was one of the most efficient employees he’s ever seen. He shows his gratitude by surprising the warehouse worker with a new forklift and a free vacation for his family. 

Fernando tells Magic that he has lots of skills, and he loves to see young people like him moving up in the company. So, Fernando enrolls Magic in a supervisor training program and offers to mentor him to help his employee get promoted. As the cherry on top, Fernando surprised Magic with a $10,000 scholarship fund to help ensure his kids have a bright future. 

Fernando says working with Anna was a fantastic adventure, even if she doesn’t like the bananas he loves so much. The head honcho tells Anna that she is funny, dedicated, and terrific. In order to thank her for her hard work, Fernando gives her $5,000 to donate to her local animal shelter to help the dogs she loves so much. He also tells Anna that there will be an elevator installed in her building to make her job easier in the future and to help her protect her bad knees. 

Fernando thanks Leo for the personal commitment and sacrifices he makes to work for Chiquita Brands International and said he is one of the best trainers he’s ever met. Since Leo spends so much time away from his wife and children, Fernando says he will be paying for a vacation so Leo and his family can spend some quality time together. Finally, Fernando says Chiquita will be paying for Leo to file the necessary documentation to become an American citizen.

Where is Fernando Aguirre, Chairman and CEO of Chiquita Brands International, now?

Fernando served as Chairman & CEO of Chiquita Brands International for almost 9 years before leaving the company in 2012 to pursue new opportunities. According to his LinkedIn, he is still very active in the business world. Mr. Aguirre is currently a board member for several different companies, including CVS Health and Barry Callebaut, which is the largest chocolate and cocoa producer in the world. He is known to use his experience as a global business executive and leadership expert to speak publicly and provide advisory services on various aspects of leadership and business. It seems Fernando still enjoys baseball, as he is the 
co-owner & vice-chairman of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans and the owner and CEO of the Erie SeaWolves.

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