C. Larry Pope, who has served as president and chief operating officer since 2001, will succeed him on Sept. 1. Luter, 67, will remain chairman of the board, where he will focus on long-term strategy and acquisitions, according to the company. The move will separate the positions of chairman and CEO.

The decision marks the end of a 31-year run as chief executive that saw Luter transform Smithfield Foods from a regional meatpacker into a company built for Wall Street performance. He directed a strategy of owning every step of the pork production process, from raising hogs to slaughtering to packaging and branding.

Luter's grandfather, Joseph Luter, founded Smithfield Packing in 1936. Smithfield Packing is now one subsidiary of Smithfield Foods.

After a stint as president of Smithfield Packing in the late 1960s, the company asked Luter to come back and turn things around in 1975. Luter pursued a strategy of cutting costs, acquiring rivals - starting with Smithfield-based rival Gwaltney in 1981 - and implementing a business model of owning pork operations and pork plants.

Having expanded into beef and poultry, the company now stakes part of its long-term growth on its international subsidiaries in France, Poland and Romania.

Daily Press (Virginia)