- Tyson Foods said Donnie King, its current chief operating officer, has been named president and CEO, the company said in a statement. Current President and CEO Dean Banks is leaving the company and board for personal reasons. He only recently became CEO in October 2020.
- The meat and poultry processor said 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 also has worked in other important areas, such as food safety and quality assurance as well as health and safety.
- King's appointment to the top job at Tyson marks the latest change in the position for the Arkansas-based company. He is the fifth CEO at Tyson in the last five years.
Tyson’s CEO post has been a revolving door in recent years. Little is known about why Banks is leaving so soon after taking over, but in a press release announcing his sudden departure, he said “stepping down and concentrating on my family is the right decision at this time.”
The decision to name company veteran King to the CEO post will hopefully bring some stability to Tyson, the largest U.S. meat company by sales. King, who joined Tyson in 1982, should provide the insight and expertise the company needs right away. He won’t need to spend months getting up to speed, and likely already has ideas in place about changes, if any, he would like to make.
As King’s biography on Tyson's website noted, his time at the company has allowed him to amass insight into many parts of the business. He has held a variety of executive leadership positions, including president of its North American operations and managing all operational aspects of poultry, fresh meats and prepared foods. This new role will allow him to also focus on international acquisitions, which Tyson has placed a bigger emphasis on in recent years.
“We need to be sharply focused on operating with excellence, executing our strategies, and continuing to innovate across our businesses throughout the world,” King said.
The seasoned executive will have his hands full overseeing Tyson.
The meatpacking industry as a whole was hit particularly hard during the early stages of the outbreak last spring. According to Food Dive data, Tyson had the most COVID-19 cases — roughly 11,000 people, or 9% of all employees at the company — compared to other meat operators.
In recent years, Tyson and other meat and poultry processors also have been accused of fixing prices in pork and chicken. At the same time, employers across the U.S. are struggling to find enough workers, and Tyson is no exception. Last month, King told analysts that it takes about six days to do five days worth of work, as reported by Bloomberg.
Still, demand for protein remains robust and Tyson continues to see strong consumption of its offerings. King will be further charged with meeting that demand and expanding output, while carefully ensuring Tyson doesn't expand too quickly only to see consumption fail to keep pace with supply.
King will also oversee Tyson’s push into meat alternatives. The company has been making inroads into plant-based foods with mixed results, introducing plant-based nuggets, hamburger patties and grounds, bratwurst and Italian sausages under its Raised & Rooted line. In January, the company introduced two sandwiches featuring a plant-based patty to its Jimmy Dean brand. Tyson announced last year it was discontinuing production of a hybrid burger patty.
Tyson’s 86-year-old history has been riddled with a slew of challenges, both external and self-inflicted, that have tested the business. Its latest CEO change is just the latest, and one the company would no doubt like to put behind it.