The board of directors of Sara Lee Corp. announced Monday that Brenda C. Barnes will step down permanently from the positions of Chairman and CEO and has resigned from Sara Lee’s board of directors.
Barnes had been on medical leave since May 14, after suffering a stroke.
Sara Lee owns the Hillshire Farms brand; the company has a plant in New London.
Starting this week, Sara Lee’s board has initiated a process to select a new chief executive officer, looking at both internal and external candidates. During the process, Marcel Smits will continue as interim CEO and Mark Garvey will continue as interim chief financial officer. James S. Crown, an independent director, will remain chairman of the board, a role he assumed when Barnes’ leave of absence began, and he will continue to lead the Office of the Chairman, comprised of Crown, Smits and C.J. Fraleigh, CEO of North American Retail and Foodservice.
“We fully support Brenda’s decision to step down as Chairman and CEO so she can devote all of her time and energy toward improving her health,” said Crown in a Sara Lee news release. “We will conduct a thorough process to identify a CEO successor in a timely manner, and look forward to sustaining the momentum begun under Brenda’s leadership.
“During Brenda’s six-year tenure as CEO, she successfully transformed Sara Lee into a strong global food and beverage company with a focused portfolio of leading brands. She exited low-margin businesses and dramatically increased the company’s investment in innovation, while strengthening its position in high-growth emerging markets. She invested in world-class technology platforms that are driving continuous improvement, cost reduction and improved efficiencies across the company. She was instrumental in assembling an outstanding, experienced senior management team, and worked tirelessly to build a high-performance culture internally and enhance the company’s reputation among all of its stakeholders.”