Suddenly, Tyson Foods today (Nov. 21) announced Tom Hayes will succeed Donnie Smith as CEO on Dec. 31. Hayes, who came up through the Hillshire/Sara Lee organization, will continue to serve as president, a title he's had since early this year. Smith, who has been CEO since November 2009, "will be available to consult with the company for a three-year period," the Tyson announcement said.
“Tom Hayes is a proven leader who has played an important role in creating today’s Tyson Foods and driving growth across our company,” said Chairman John Tyson. “The plan we have announced today will result in a smooth leadership transition that positions Tyson Foods for continued growth and innovation.
"The Board’s decision to name Tom CEO at this time was based on both his track record and how his skills align with the company’s strategic direction and continuing evolution," Mr. Tyson continued. "The Board has the utmost confidence in Tom’s ability to build on the platform Donnie has created, to expand further into developing markets, new product categories and proprietary food experiences, and to continue investing in our core nine categories.”
Smith became CEO of Tyson Foods in November 2009, and has helped to build a platform to support the Company’s hybrid strategy of branded prepared products and fresh chicken, beef, pork and specialty meats. Hayes was appointed President earlier this year and is leading Tyson Foods’ transition to the hybrid model. Working with Smith to leverage Tyson Foods’ scale and develop brands to drive growth, Hayes has been responsible for retailed packaged brands, international and global growth, North American sales, strategy and new ventures, as well as the support functions of corporate affairs and operations services.
Donnie Smith said, “I take great pride in having led Tyson Foods for the past seven years. In addition to helping the company deliver growth and strong shareholder returns, I am also proud of the efforts we have undertaken to make Tyson Foods a company with a conscience, focused on providing consumers wholesome, affordable food and making a positive difference in people’s lives.
"When Tyson acquired Hillshire Brands in 2014, with the support of the Board and the family, we embarked on a new strategy to integrate the strengths and products of each company into one company," Smith continued, "and the resulting hybrid model has been a success in no small part thanks to Tom’s strategic, operational and commercial accomplishments. I am confident that Tom is the right CEO to continue the transition we have started and lead Tyson in the next phase of its strategic development and growth."
Hayes also joins the Board of Directors immediately.
Hayes is a 29-year veteran of the consumer products industry. Prior to his role as President, Hayes was chief commercial officer at Tyson Foods, overseeing all North American sales in addition to the food service prepared foods business. Previously, Hayes served as chief supply chain officer for The Hillshire Brands Company, responsible for operations including procurement, manufacturing, food safety and quality, engineering, and logistics. Before that, Hayes was senior vice president and chief supply chain officer for Hillshire predecessor, Sara Lee North America, responsible for supply chain activities for the company’s North American Retail and Foodservice businesses. Prior to this role, Hayes was president of Sara Lee Foodservice.
Before joining Sara Lee in 2006, Hayes served as group vice president of US Foodservice, Inc., where he oversaw the turnaround needs of broad line distribution facilities in the Northeast. Hayes has also held general management, sales and marketing roles at ConAgra Foods, The Fort James Corporation, Stella Foods and Kraft Foods.