Grimes’ exit opens important prepared foods job at Tyson Foods

by Kim Souza (ksouza@talkbusiness.net) 3,618 views 

Sally Grimes, Tyson Foods group president for prepared foods, is exiting the company later this year when her successor is named and there is an adequate transition period. Grimes gave notice to Tyson Foods this week and the company filed a notice with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission.

Tyson Foods corporate spokesman Gary Mickelson said Grimes’ decision to leave the company later this year reflects her desire to spend more time with her family as she plans to remain in Chicago.

“We will retain an executive recruiting firm to help identify a successor and will consider both internal and external candidates,” Mickelson said.

In the federal filing, the company said it anticipates entering into a separation and release agreement with Grimes that will entitle her to receive an annual base salary of $850,000 for 24 months following her separation from Tyson Foods, to be paid in equal, bi-weekly installments. She also will be paid a 2019 annual performance incentive payment under the company’s plan if company performance merits such pay. If her departure occurs after the end of fiscal year 2019, she will receive a prorated portion of her target 2020 annual performance incentive payment. She will also be entitled to additional vesting of restricted stock payments depending on performance criteria and her official separation date to be determined later.

She will also receive subsidized health insurance benefits for a term of 24 months for herself and her dependents. In exchange for the generous separation benefits, Grimes will have to agree to certain non-competition clauses pertaining to Tyson Foods and its competitors. Grimes was the highest ranking female at Tyson Foods and was the face of the prepared foods business for the past couple of years.

Grimes has been based in Chicago and Tyson Foods expects the position could remain based there. Grimes joined Tyson Foods with the Hillshire Brands acquisitions in 2014. She joined Hillshire in 2012 where she served as chief innovation officer and president of Gourmet Foods, part of Hillshire’s portfolio of brands.

In 2014, Tyson Foods tagged Grimes as chief global growth officer and president, a position she held for two years and five months. When Tom Hayes took over as CEO of Tyson Foods, Grimes was elevated to president of the retail division, a position she held for eight months. Hayes then re-adjusted the management team in August 2017 and elevated Grimes to group president of prepared foods where she has been responsible for nearly $10 billion of the company’s $40 billion business worldwide.

As group president, she has managed almost half of Tyson Foods’ production facilities, more than 20,000 employees, and the company’s growth, innovation, insights, R&D and culinary teams. Grimes leads three billion-dollar brands for Tyson Foods in Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farms and Tyson Foods.

Grimes was among Fortune’s 2018 Most Powerful Women to Watch and one of the 2018 Most Powerful Women in Crain’s Chicago Business. She was also named as one of the most creative people in business by Fast Company last year.

Whomever CEO Noel White chooses to replace Grimes will have large shoes to fill. White recently told Talk Business & Politics the prepared foods segment is the future growth engine of the company combined with a larger international footprint. He said the prepared foods segment already comprises about 30% of company profits and roughly 20% of total sales. He said it’s a meaningful portion of the business with room to grow.

White said the prepared foods segment is helping to stabilize and grow earnings. The business unit has grown exponentially with the acquisitions of Hillshire Farms, AdvancePierre and Original Philly in recent years. Since 2014 the prepared foods segment has doubled in size from $4 billion to more than $8 billion. The prepared foods segment had a total operating income of $286 million and a 12.5% return on sales in 2018. White said the prepared foods segment is key to Tyson Foods long term growth and one of the areas where future acquisitions could make sense.

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