Brenda C. Barnes, chairman and CEO of Sara Lee Corp., who has been on medical leave since May 14 after suffering a stroke, will step down permanently so she can continue to focus on improving her health. She has also resigned from Sara Lee's board of directors and will not stand for re-election at the company's 2010 annual stockholders meeting in October.
Starting this week, Sara Lee's board initiated a process to select a new chief executive officer, looking at both internal and external candidates. During the process, Marcel Smits will continue as interim chief executive officer and Mark Garvey will continue as interim chief financial officer. James S. Crown, an independent director, will remain chairman of the board, a role he assumed when Barnes' leave of absence began, and he will continue to lead the Office of the Chairman, comprised of Crown, Smits and CJ Fraleigh, CEO of North American Retail and Foodservice."During Brenda's six-year tenure as CEO, she successfully transformed Sara Lee into a strong global food and beverage company with a focused portfolio of leading brands," said Crown. "She exited low-margin businesses and dramatically increased the company's investment in innovation, while strengthening its position in high-growth emerging markets. She invested in world-class technology platforms that are driving continuous improvement, cost reduction and improved efficiencies across the company. She was instrumental in assembling an outstanding, experienced senior management team, and worked tirelessly to build a high-performance culture internally and enhance the company's reputation among all of its stakeholders. We thank Brenda for her many contributions to Sara Lee and wish her continued success with her recovery," Crown concluded.We all wish her a speedy recovery.