Tyson officials talk legacy, financial future at company’s 60th annual meeting

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 1,504 views 

Tyson Foods’ early origins were in downtown Springdale more than eight decades ago with the Tyson Feed & Hatchery business founded by John W. Tyson.

Tyson Foods shareholders met in downtown Springdale Thursday morning (Feb. 9) to approve a short business agenda, defeat an outside shareholder proposal and elect a slate of 13 directors to one-year terms.

It is the 60th year for Tyson Foods to hold its annual shareholder meeting, having incorporated in 1947 and going public in 1963 under the leadership of Don Tyson, father of board chairman John H. Tyson.

“Dad didn’t set out to be one of the largest meat companies in the world. He was trying to pay bills and keep his family fed,” said Tyson said Thursday as he opened the meeting.

He said despite inevitable changes from the company’s exponential growth in the past 60 years, there are constants in the company instilled by the founder, his grandfather John W. Tyson and his dad, who took over leadership in 1967 after John W. Tyson was killed in a car accident.

“We will always be a company of people who take care of each other who are engaged in food production and seeking to act with integrity. Most of all, we are forever committed to creating value for our shareholders, suppliers and the communities we serve,” the senior Tyson said.

This was also the first meeting for John Randal Tyson as chief financial officer. He did not rehash the company’s recent lackluster earnings results but said he would focus on a bright future and strong return to shareholders over the past five years.

Between 2017 and 2022, Tyson Foods increased operating income at a 9% compound annual growth rate and expanded compounded earnings growth of more than 15%. Despite the challenging outlook for earnings in 2023, John R. Tyson said the company remains focused on driving volume sales growth and positioning the company for the long-term ability to drive value for shareholders.

The company repurchased 4.9 million shares in the recent first quarter totaling $313 million. In fiscal 2022, the company repurchased 8.2 million shares for $702 million. The company also paid $653 million in dividends in fiscal 2022. Tyson said its 5-year annual dividend growth rate is 15%. In the most recent quarter, Tyson paid shareholders $169 million in dividend payments.

Tyson’s board of directors has remained committed to increasing the annual dividend rate to $1.92 per share for Class A shares this year. Tyson Foods said it has increased its annual dividend rate annually since 2013.

The younger Tyson said he remains humbled to be part of the management team for the company started by his great-grandfather, expanded by his grandfather, and still growing by his dad and the leadership team around him.

The younger Tyson did not talk about his recent legal woes. Police arrested him in November after a woman found him asleep in her home near Dickson Street in downtown Fayetteville. According to the police report, an alcohol odor was on his breath and body. Tyson pleaded innocent to the charges in December but would later plead guilty in a deal in which he only had to pay fines.

Tyson Foods CEO Donnie King spoke about the company’s mission to be a “sought after” workplace and how those results will continue to position Tyson to win in the long run. He said Tyson is winning with customers and consumers, demonstrated by a five-year market share across Tyson’s core business lines.

“It’s evident that we deliver the brands and products consumers want to buy. We continue to focus on operating execution excellence and with making leadership changes, disciplined revenue management and bring our corporate U.S. team members together.  We are already seeing the benefits of these efforts. For example, our productivity program will deliver $1 billion in savings a year ahead of schedule,” King said.

He also commended the company for its No. 1 ranking in Forbes Magazine’s Most Admired Company for the seventh year in the food manufacturing sector.

Shares of Tyson Foods (NYSE: TSN) closed Thursday at $60.64, up 66 cents. Over the past 52 weeks the share price has traded between $59.38 and $99.85.

With a majority vote, Tyson shareholders elected 13 directors. Ten are independent, including Les Baledge, Mike Beebe, Maria Claudia Borras, David Bronczek, Mikel Durham, Jonathan Mariner, Kevin McNamara, Cheryl Miller, Jeffrey Schomburger and Barbara Tyson and were elected to a term of one year. Non-independent directors include: Chairman Tyson, CEO Donnie King and Executive Vice-Chairman Noel White.

Tyson Foods shareholders also ratified the selection of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP as the independent registered public accounting firm for the company for the 2023 fiscal year. Three proposals relating to executive compensation were also passed with a clear majority.

As expected, shareholders voted against an outside proposal requesting the company complies with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) guidelines on using antimicrobials in Tyson Foods’ supply chain. Tyson Foods said it has already instituted a science-based policy on antibiotic use that addresses WHO’s non-binding guidance.