Tyson's Tollet addresses the state of the company

by MEAT&POULTRY Staff
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SPRINGDALE, ARK. – During a Feb. 6 press briefing Leland Tollett, interim president and chief executive officer of Tyson Foods Inc., discussed the company’s efforts to get back in the black, its search for a new president and c.e.o., its business strategy for the future – and the need for Tyson to be Best -in-Class in everything it does.

"I’m honored to lead this great company again," he said. "A significant portion of our business is in pretty good shape. Our beef, pork and prepared-foods segments have been performing very well. And our international and renewable products divisions are growing and making great progress. My primary concern [at present] is our chicken business."

Tyson’s chicken business has been challenged by losses due to declining demand, some high costs and by some unfavorable positions on grain, Mr. Tollett said. "We’re working very aggressively to turn this business back to [being profitable] and we have made significant progress in this area in just the last three to four weeks," he added.

Mr. Tollett said he is pleased the fundamentals of the business are improving. "The things we have historically been able to control, like yields, are in pretty good shape," he added. "They’re not out of step with our competition. We still have some work to do and we can’t rely solely on the industry fundamentals to get us to where we need to be."

Tyson must to be best-in-Class in everything it does, he continued. "We’re competitive in most areas we measure. We’re making a major push on getting our product mix in the position we want it to be so we can sell the entire chicken—all of the parts of it for all the money we can get for it."

Tyson is also making a major push on improving customer service.

Regarding who will be the next c.e.o., Mr. Tollett said, "I believe the next c.e.o. ....is in our existing talent pool. The chairman and other members of our board will be working diligently with our senior management to evaluate potential candidates and to select this c.e.o. as quickly as possible."

But Tyson won’t rush into making this decision. "We plan to use all of the time we need to do this," he said. "We will be very diligent and deliberate, but we’ll do it expeditiously at the same time."

Mr. Tollett plans to stay in his current management position as long as necessary to get this task accomplished. "I’m not in all that much of a hurry to leave, but I’m in a heck of a hurry to get this business fixed," he added.

Tyson’s business strategies are not changing, Mr. Tollett assured reporters. "We’re going to continue to improve our operating efficiencies and with international expansion. We’re going to remain focused on ways to add value to products in our renewable division. And we’re going to continue to develop new products –and some of those will be for new customers."

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