Hillshire CEO steps down

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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Sean Connolly is leaving Hillshire Brands Company.

SPRINGDALE, Ark. – Tyson Foods Inc. has completed its merger with The Hillshire Brands Company. But the prepared foods juggernaut will be moving forward without Sean Connolly, former president and CEO of Hillshire.

Connolly "has chosen to pursue other interests, but will consult during the integration process," Tyson said in a statement. Prior to his 2012 appointment as CEO of what was then, Sara Lee’s North American meat business, Connolly spent a decade at Campbell Soup Co., as president of Campbell North America. He helped lead the development of new products, including the V8 V-Fusion line of juice drinks. Ten years before joining Campbell, Connolly managed brands and marketing for Proctor & Gamble. His reputation for successfully leading the innovation of established brands is well documented and his success in elevating Hillshire is the latest feather in his cap (Read more about Connolly and his early days with Hillshire).

The merger of Tyson Foods and Hillshire Brands creates a single company with more than $40 billion in annual sales and a portfolio of popular brands such as Tyson, Wright, Jimmy Dean, Ball Park, State Fair and Hillshire Farm. The merger also is expected to generate savings of $225 million in fiscal 2015 and more than $500 million by fiscal 2017. Shares of Hillshire Brands common stock were delisted and ceased trading on the New York Stock Exchange and Chicago Stock Exchange before the opening on Aug. 29.

“As of today, Tyson Foods and Hillshire Brands are officially together in one great company,” said Donnie Smith, Tyson Foods CEO. “Part of our strategic growth plan has been to shift toward higher-margin prepared and branded foods. This transaction gives us a portfolio of complementary, proven brands as a new springboard and accomplishes in a short time what would have taken us years to build on our own.”

A mix of senior leaders from Tyson Foods and Hillshire Brands will comprise the new leadership of the merged company.

Andy Callahan, former president of Hillshire’s retail business, will manage all retail consumer brands, including the legacy Hillshire consumer brands (such as Jimmy Dean, Ball Park, Hillshire Farm and Sara Lee); Tyson’s consumer brands (such as Tyson frozen, value-added poultry and Wright Brand bacon); and Hillshire’s Gourmet Food Group.

Sally Grimes, former chief innovation officer and president of Hillshire’s Gourmet Food Group, will lead Tyson’s innovation, sales and global brand strategy teams.

Donnie King, former president-Prepared Foods, Customer and Consumer Solutions for Tyson Foods, will oversee Tyson’s legacy poultry, fresh meats and non-branded prepared foods businesses, as well as the combined Tyson Foods and Hillshire foodservice businesses. Reporting to King will be Steve Stouffer who will lead fresh meats; Noel White who will lead poultry; Wes Morris who will lead prepared foods operations; and Tom Hayes, currently chief supply chain officer for Hillshire Brands, who will lead the combined Tyson and Hillshire foodservice businesses.

Those continuing to report to Donnie Smith will include David Van Bebber, who leads the Tyson legal team; Sara Lilygren, who leads corporate affairs; Dennis Leatherby, who continues as the company’s CFO; Hal Carper, who heads strategy and new ventures; Mike Roetzel, who oversees operations services; and Russell Tooley, who heads the company’s business process and continuous improvement practice.

Mary Oleksiuk, former chief human resources officer for Hillshire Brands, will also lead Tyson Foods' human resources as Ken Kimbro, who has led Tyson’s human resources since 2001, will be retiring.

Malik Sadiq, senior vice president-Asia Pacific, will oversee Tyson International on an interim basis. He succeeds James Young who will be transitioning to the Cobb-Vantress breeding stock subsidiary.

“During this process, I’ve had a chance get to know many people on the Hillshire Brands team and the great work they’re doing, and I’m more convinced than ever that the future of our combined companies is bright,” Smith said. “As excited as I am about our new brands, I’m equally excited about the combined talent of the two companies.”

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