Former Hillshire CEO to lead ConAgra

by Josh Sosland
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Sean Connolly, CEO of ConAgra
Sean Connolly was president and CEO of The Hillshire Brands Co. until its sale to Tyson Foods.

OMAHA – Sean Connolly will become chief executive officer of ConAgra Foods Inc., effective April 6, the company announced on Feb, 12. The announcement came six months to the day after Gary Rodkin announced plans to retire as CEO at the end of the fiscal year in May. Rodkin will serve as a senior advisor to the company between April 6 and the end of May.

Most recently, Connolly was president and CEO of The Hillshire Brands Co. from the time the company was created as a spin-off from Sara Lee Corp. in 2012 until its sale to Tyson Foods in August 2014. Connolly has a proven track record of delivering results in the very competitive food and beverage business. Prior to his role at Hillshire, Connolly spent a decade at Campbell Soup Co., as president of Campbell North America when he left the firm. 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 looks to serve him well in his new position.

“We are thrilled to have Sean join ConAgra Foods as our new CEO,” said Steve Goldstone, chairman of the ConAgra board of directors. “His track record of building brands, energizing teams, and creating value makes him an ideal fit. We are confident he will infuse focus and enthusiasm at ConAgra Foods.”

Goldstone also had kind words for the retiring CEO.

“Our company was a very different place in 2005 when Gary arrived, and we sincerely appreciate his vision and tenacity in making huge strides in the company’s portfolio and performance,” he said. “We expect a smooth transition from Gary to Sean over the next several months.”

Connolly’s career also included time in the food and beverage division at Procter & Gamble. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Vanderbilt Univ. and an MBA from the Univ. of Texas. He will join ConAgra Foods March 3 as CEO-elect, beginning his work with Rodkin on the leadership transition.

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