Smithfield Foods Inc. CEO C. Larry Pope will retire on Dec. 31, after 35 years with the Smithfield, Va., pork company, the past nine as its top officer. He will be replaced by Kenneth Sullivan, who was named president and chief operating officer early this year.
“This planned leadership transition comes at a time of strength and growth for Smithfield," Pope said. "2014 and 2015 have been the two best years in Smithfield’s history for financial performance and I believe the company is primed for ongoing success."
Pope presided over an historic and sometimes tumultuous period for Smithfield, during which the company became the world's largest pork processor and hog producer and also delved deeper into higher value-added and branded products. Smithfield also got acquired by China's largest meat company, Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd., in 2013 for $7.1 billion, which sparked debate over whether a key U.S. food producer should be owned by a Chinese company. Shuanghui recently changed its name to WH Group Ltd. Smithfield sales currently are reported at $15 billion.
While Sullivan just became president and chief operating officer earlier this year, he has been with the company since 2003 and held a number of titles, including chief financial officer 2013-2015.
Smithfield brands include Eckrich, Farmland, Armour, Cook's, John Morrell, Gwaltney, Nathan's Famous, Kretschmar, Margherita, Curly's, Carando and Healthy Ones.