Tyson Makes Poultry Business Top Priority

US - The interim chief executive officer of Tyson Foods, Inc. says returning the company’s poultry business to profitability is at the top of his list of objectives. Leland Tollett’s comments were part of an internal video presentation released on Friday (9 January) to Tyson employees.
calendar icon 12 January 2009
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Mr Tollett, 71, was named interim president and CEO on 5 January. He has been associated with Tyson Foods since 1959, and previously served as CEO from 1991 to 1998. He was also part of Tyson’s board of directors from 1984 until early 2008.

“Whatever it takes is how long I’ll be here,” he said, noting his status as interim CEO could be a few months or longer, if necessary. “We’ve got good people in just about every area of responsibility…and I’m looking forward to working with them.

“We all need to focus on the same goal and that’s making money,” he said. “Everybody’s got to be involved…and I want our people to look at their job as being an integral part of a team, regardless of what their level of responsibility is.”

Mr Tollett told employees he supports continuing Tyson’s current key strategies, which include developing new products customers need, improving operational efficiencies, continuing international expansion and remaining focused on ways to add value to by-products.

He noted Tyson’s beef and pork business, as well as the company’s international and renewable products divisions are all solid businesses and said the company will “just keep doing what we’re doing in those areas and sharpen them up if we can.” He is devoting most of his attention to the company’s poultry business, which lost money in fiscal 2008.

As part of the effort to return to profitability, Mr Tollett reported the structure of Tyson’s poultry business has been rearranged, with changes that include the previously announced appointment of longtime Tyson executive Donnie Smith as senior group vice president of Poultry and Prepared Foods. A limited number of corporate positions have also been eliminated; however, Mr Tollett indicated no major lay-offs are planned.

“My goal is to get this business streamlined…letting people do their jobs, their way,” he said.

The company intends to select a new, permanent CEO as soon as possible and hopes the new leader can be identified from the existing, internal pool of management talent. The Chairman and other members of the Tyson board will be working with senior management to evaluate potential candidates and will have a recommendation for the board to act on as soon as that process can be completed.

“While we would like to select a new CEO quickly, we plan to take all of the time necessary to ensure we have chosen the best candidate to lead this great company,” Mr Tollett said. “I don’t know if I will be in this interim position for three months or three years, however, I certainly hope it’s closer to three months.”

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