Chairman of the Board John Tyson of Tyson Foods, announced today that the company's board of directors has chosen Donnie Smith, current senior group vice president of poultry and prepared foods to be the company's president and chief executive officer, effective immediately. Additionally, Jim Lochner, senior group vice president of fresh meats, was named the company's chief operating officer.

Leland Tollett, who has been serving as Tyson's interim president and chief executive officer since January, will 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; 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,” Tollett said.

Donnie Smith, 50, joined Tyson Foods in 1980 after graduating from the University of Tennessee with a degree in animal science.  After seven years experience in various live poultry production jobs, he moved to Springdale, Arkansas, to join the Tyson commodities purchasing group.  Since then, he has had various leadership roles in the company,  including purchasing; environmental, health and safety; food safety and quality assurance; manufacturing srvices; iformation sstems; and lgistics, before becoming senior group vice president of pultry and pepared fods.

“I am certain that 2010 and the years to come are going to be great for our shareholders, our customers, and other stakeholders," said Smith. "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, later purchased by Tyson, in 1983 as director of research. He had been 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 officer positions in various quality control and technical services areas.  He became IBP's executive vice president in 1997, responsible for the company's beef and pork plants. In 2000, he was promoted to IBP's president and chief executive officer. Upon Tyson Foods' acquisition in 2001, he became group vice president of Tyson Fresh Meats.  He moved on to 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.

Tyson noted that successors to Smith and Lochner will be named within the next two weeks, along with any other related position announcements.

Source: Tyson Foods