Tyson Foods executive Wes Morris to exit company

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 1,340 views 

Wes Morris, president of prepared foods manufacturing at Tyson Foods, is leaving the meat giant, according to an internal email from COO Noel White obtained by Talk Business & Politics.

Morris is one of several long-time Tyson Foods employees to leave the company since CEO Tom Hayes took control of the business to start the year.

In the email, White said Morris has considerable talent and skills in broad-based management, but after discussing the company’s new strategy they concluded that the new prepared foods role does not align with his career vision, which prompted him to step away from the company.

“This decision was not taken lightly, and it saddens me to see a long-time member of our organization leave,” White noted in the email.

Morris joined Tyson Foods in 1999 as vice president of sales, wholesale clubs and rose up through the ranks during his tenure. Morris held various senior vice president roles before rising to group president.

“Wes [Morris] has been a significant part of our success in his various sales and operational leadership roles for over 17 years and his contributions played an instrumental role in the Hillshire Brands acquisition,” White noted.

The company said it would be conducting an internal and external search to fill Morris’ role. In the interim, Rob Tanksley, senior vice president process foods, will lead the prepared foods operation.

Morris is one of several legacy Tyson Foods leaders to walk away from the company in recent weeks, reducing the meat giant’s overall institutional memory. Sara Lilygren, Donnie King and other execs have also either left or will soon leave the company.

Hayes recently laid out his structure for the company by promoting two former Hillshire Brands executives to lead the two new divisions — Retail and Foodservice. This is a dramatic departure from the previous structure which was set up by specific protein groups such as poultry and prepared foods, pork and beef, businesses which are run quite differently. White, who has astute knowledge running the poultry and the separate fresh meats business, was promoted to the role of COO recently as well.

Investors have been somewhat bearish on Tyson Foods shares since its last earnings report in February. Tyson Foods shares (NYSE:TSN) closed Thursday (March 9) at $62.29, up 60 cents, only to fall back to $62.10 in aftermarket trading. Over the past five weeks the share price has gone from $65.39 on Feb. 3, ahead of the Feb. 6 earnings, down to $62.29, losing almost 5% of the stock value.