Dean Banks resigns as Tyson Foods president and CEO; Donnie King named successor (UPDATED)

by Paul Gatling ([email protected]) 2,999 views 

Springdale-based Tyson Foods said Wednesday (June 2) that president and CEO Dean Banks has resigned from the company and board for personal reasons. Donnie King, the company’s chief operating officer, has been named as his successor, effective immediately.

“The board and I know that Donnie has a deep understanding of our business, values and culture and the solid leadership skills needed to continue to implement our strategy and deliver strong results,” John H. Tyson, chairman of the board, said in a company news release. “We want to express our appreciation to Dean for his contributions as a board member and executive.”

Banks joined the company as president in 2017 and added the CEO title in October 2020.

“Upon deep personal reflection, and discussions with my family, the board, and my colleagues, I believe that stepping down and concentrating on my family is the right decision at this time,” Banks said in a statement.

King has more than 36 years of experience in the protein business, holding a variety of executive leadership positions involving virtually all facets of the company including poultry, beef, pork, prepared foods and international. He has also provided executive oversight of other important areas, such as food safety and quality assurance, health and safety, continuous improvement, engineering, and supply chain.

King was promoted to COO earlier this year.

“I’m humbled but excited about leading Tyson Foods, a company that feeds millions of people and means so much to me personally,” King said in a statement. “I believe we need to be sharply focused on operating with excellence, executing our strategies, and continuing to innovate across our businesses throughout the world. With our strong leadership team, we are committed to winning with our customers and delivering an outstanding team member experience.”

Tyson Foods’ leadership change was unexpected, but Stephens Inc. analyst Ben Bienvenu said King is well suited to fill the role given his industry experience and company knowledge.

“King is very well regarded among investors and has more than three decades of experience in the protein business, having held executive leadership positions in poultry, beef, pork, prepared foods and international. He has increasingly become more visible in the public markets with his responsibilities as COO, and we expect the company’s strategic and operational priorities will remain the same following this transition,” Bienvenu said.

Bienvenu expects to see steady improving results at Tyson Foods in the coming months. Little Rock-based Stephens Inc. reiterated its “buy” rating on the shares with a price target of $90.

Analysts with Bank of America are not surprised to see Donnie King selected to replace Banks as CEO. The firm thinks King’s priority remains a chicken turnaround, as Tyson’s chicken segment profitability lags the industry. King recently told Wall Street the performance in the chicken segment has not been acceptable. His goal is to restore the profits by better serving customers and resolving the hatch issues of last year after a new male used in breeding resulted in less supply.

Peter Galbo at Bank of America said King has a successful track record in the past by improving chicken margins. As a result, Bank of America remains neutral on Tyson Foods, with a target price of $84.

Tyson Foods plans to host an investor meeting this fall, and the company will release more details later.

Shares of Tyson Foods (NYSE: TSN) were unfazed Wednesday morning by the leadership transition, trading at $80.31 up 11 cents. For the past 52 weeks, shares of Tyson Foods have traded between $55.28 and $81.79. The share value is up about 25% year to date.

Talk Business & Politics senior analyst Kim Souza contributed to this report.