Breaking up is hard, especially when long-time partners have to decide who gets financial assets, property or even a pet. The split could be trickier, still, when one of the world’s most beloved dogs is involved.
MetLife Inc. (NYSE: MET) Chief Executive Officer Steve Kandarian has to decide whether he keeps Snoopy and his Peanuts friends, or if the comic-strip crew will depart with a U.S. retail business that the company plans to sell, spin off or divest to investors in a public offering.
Snoopy has been associated with the insurer for more than three decades, and enhances the “warm, approachable quality that is important to the MetLife brand,” according to the company’s guidelines. The beagle appears in the insurer’s ads, employees’ business cards, Wall Street presentations and even blimps that fly above golf tournaments.
“There aren’t many animated or cartoon characters that have that level of recognition and that level of appeal, which is what makes it so valuable,” said James O’Rourke, a management professor at University of Notre Dame, who expects the Peanuts characters will go to the retail business. “People think Snoopy is totally cool, and it’s a pretty broad range of people.”
“We are in the early stages of planning,” the company said in a statement discussing the split. “Many questions remain to be answered.”
It is “highly unlikely the company would spin off its retail business without the dog,” Al Ries, chairman of market-strategy firm Ries & Ries, said in an e-mail. “Would anyone buy the Corona brand without the lime? Or the cola business from Coca-Cola without the contour bottle?”
MetLife has long sought to appeal to both individuals and to huge corporate clients. The National Football League’s New York Giants and New York Jets play at MetLife Stadium, and the insurer’s name is featured on a Park Avenue tower in New York.