SPRINGDALE, Ark. -- Chairman of the Board John Tyson, of Tyson Foods, Inc. (NYSE: TSN), announced recently that the Board of Directors of Tyson Foods has chosen Donnie Smith, currently senior group vice president of Poultry and Prepared Foods, to be the company's president and chief executive officer, effective immediately.
"The Tyson Board and the Tyson family congratulate Donnie Smith and Jim Lochner and wish them the best for the future success of our company," Tyson said. "We appreciate Leland Tollett stepping into the CEO role earlier in the year and working so hard to help turn the company around. Significant progress has been made. I have worked with both Donnie and Jim for a number of years and am convinced that they are the right leadership team for this next phase in the evolution of our company. Their extensive experience inside the company has fully prepared them to continue the progress we have made in the last year."
Leland Tollett, who has been serving as interim president and CEO of the company since January, will continue in the coming months to assist Smith and Lochner in the transition, and he will be available for strategic advice and support. "When I was called back to help get our company back on course, I was asked how long I would be in this role. I jokingly said, 'somewhere between three months and three years, hopefully sooner than later.'
That time is now, and our company has been profitable for an extended period of time and it has been personally gratifying to me to have been able to lead a great team of people in turning our company around in a relatively short time. I know Donnie and Jim are ready to take on these new responsibilities and lead the great team of managers we have in our company. I've enjoyed being back at the company this year, but while I'll continue to be available for advice should it be needed, the amount of time I spend on company matters will be reduced significantly going forward," Tollett said.
"I started with Tyson Foods 29 years ago, and I've been very fortunate to serve in several roles for this great company," Smith said. "At every turn, I learned a different aspect of what we do, but the most important thing I've learned is that we have an amazing team of individuals that are dedicated to producing results. I am honored that I will now serve these team members as the leader of our company, and I am certain that 2010 and the years to come are going to be great for our shareholders, our customers, and other stakeholders. Yes, we, like everyone else, have seen some struggles in these economic times, but I am certain that through the leadership of our team, the efforts of all our team members with our customers, and the focus on operational excellence, we will succeed."
Jim Lochner, 57, joined IBP, inc., later purchased by Tyson, in 1983 as director of research. Previously, he was a quality control food technologist at Oscar Mayer Foods and a laboratory technician at the University of Wisconsin. In his first 14 years at IBP, Lochner held several different officer positions in various quality control and technical services areas. He became executive vice president of IBP in 1997, responsible for all of IBP's beef and pork plants. In 2000, he was promoted to president and CEO of IBP. After Tyson Foods acquired IBP in 2001, he was named group vice president of Tyson Fresh Meats. He was then named Tyson Foods' senior group vice president of Margin Optimization in 2005 before becoming senior group vice president of Fresh Meats in 2007. Lochner earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in meat and animal science from the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
As president and CEO, Smith's direct reports will be: Chief Operating Officer Jim Lochner, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Dennis Leatherby, Executive Vice President and General Counsel David Van Bebber, Executive Vice President and Special Assistant to the President Buddy Wray, Senior Vice President for Human Resources Ken Kimbro and Senior Vice President for External Relations Sara Lilygren. As the Chief Operating Officer, Lochner's direct reports will be all of Tyson Foods' business units, including Poultry and Prepared Foods, Fresh Meats, International, Renewable Products, and the Shared Services Groups that support the business units through Transportation, Information Services, Product Development and Environmental, Health and Safety Services. Successors to Smith and Lochner will be named within the next two weeks, along with any other related announcements.
Tyson Foods has a plant in Cherokee.