Tyson CEO 'perfectly comfortable' with leadership changes

Tyson Foods CEO Donnie King defended the company’s recent decision to shuffle its executive team, saying he feels “perfectly comfortable” with the changes.

Roy Graber Headshot
(Tyson Foods)
(Tyson Foods)

Tyson Foods CEO Donnie King defended the company’s recent decision to shuffle its executive team, saying he feels “perfectly comfortable” with the changes.

During a quarterly earnings call on November 14, King addressed a pair of questions relating to new assignments for John R. (John Randal) Tyson and Stewart Glendinning. During the second question, Tyson and Glendinning also spoke on their own behalf.

On September 27, Tyson Foods announced in a press release that it had promoted Tyson from his position as chief sustainability officer to chief financial officer (CFO), a position that Glendinning had held since 2017. Glendinning was reassigned as the president of Tyson’s prepared foods division.

In the same press release, Tyson announced Noelle O’Mara, the previous prepared foods president, “decided to pursue other opportunities and is no longer with the company,” and Amy Tu, previously general counsel for Tyson Foods, was named president of the international business segment and chief administrative officer.

Focusing on the moves involving Tyson and Glendinning, Credit Suisse analyst Robert Moskow sought to know more about the decision to reassign the pair.

“Those of us who have followed Tyson for a long time are used to the company with putting the people with a lot of brand management expertise in charge of Prepared Foods because it’s a heavily branded food portfolio, and putting people into the CFO role who have 20-plus years in the finance track. This latest reshuffling did the opposite,” said Moskow. “Can you speak to how the organization is responding culturally to these decisions … ?”

King responded: "I would remind you at Tyson we have a succession planning process (that) is very robust, and we’re working that program into living documents and we have, to your point, made some decisions. I am very pleased with the decisions that we’ve made around John Randall and Stewart and Amy Tu. These are very talented individuals, and all of them have experience in other areas, and then they draw that to Tyson. We’re comfortable with the team we’ve got. The team feels good with the leaders they have, and I’ve already seen great progress in the work that they’re doing. I’m perfectly comfortable with the people we put in place.”

Glendinning, Tyson discuss new roles

Not long after King addressed Moskow’s question, Ken Zaslow, managing director, BMO, asked Tyson and Glendinning about their new roles and what changes can be expected as a result of their reassignments.

Glendinning -- whose LinkedIn profile states that he was CFO of Molson Coors UK from July 2005 to 2008, CEO of Molson Coors Canada from July 2008 to October 2016, and CEO of Molson Coors International from October 2016 to December 2017 -- clarified that he did not only have experience as a chief financial officer, but also as an executive with experience with running a branded business.

“I spent 13 years with the Molson Coors business, 10 of those as an executive officer -- four of those as CFO and six years running the branded businesses. I’m coming to this business with a good knowledge of brands, and I’m excited to run what is a powerful part of our portfolio,” said Glendinning.

“When I look at the business, I see huge opportunity, mainly because our platform is so strong. Starting off, if you look at the volume proponents of Prepared Foods over the last number of years, our share has been good, but it could be stronger. … I see real opportunity for volume improvement, particularly in the foodservice business, and I’m pressing hard against that. That means filling the orders that we already have, and filling out the capacity that we have in our network. Both of those have a big opportunity in our company. Also look at cost structures, we’ve got the ability to run our business in a leaner way and still see the growth that we want to see as a company.”

Tyson, who is currently the focus of an independent review following his November 6 arrest on suspicion of public intoxication and criminal trespass, said people could expect “more continuity rather than radical change of any kind” as he continues to succeed Glendinning as CFO.

“I think the first thing I’d point out is that it relates to kind of the overall leadership team here. I’ve been on the executive team for going on a few years now, and involved in the senior leadership level for more than that, so I don’t think from a capital allocation standpoint or a strategy standpoint, you should expect to many significant changes or departures from how things have been handled in the past,” said Tyson.

“Stewart and I are sitting here next to each other. Stylistically, you might see a few differences between the two of us, but overall, I think the direction of the company stays the same.”

King reiterated Glendinning’s experience, while voicing his support for his successor as CFO.

“John Randal has had experience outside of Tyson, he’s had escalating levels of responsibility in banking and venture capitalism prior to joining Tyson. But, you may not know that within Tyson for the last four years, he’s led the M&A strategy ventures and other areas of the companies. Don’t forget about the fact that he’s been involved in this business essentially his whole life, so (there’s) a lot of experience there,” King said.

Tyson is 32 years old, according to documents from the Washington County (Arkansas) Sheriff’s Office, while information concerning Glendinning’s age was not readily available.

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