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Smithfield president, CEO Kenneth Sullivan to retire

Smithfield Foods Inc. President and CEO Kenneth M. Sullivan will retire from the company in early 2021.

Kenneth Sullivan (Courtesy Smithfield)

Will be succeeded by Dennis Organ, chief operating officer, U.S. operations, in early 2021

Smithfield Foods Inc. President and CEO Kenneth M. Sullivan will retire from the company in early 2021, the company announced on October 19. He will be succeeded by Dennis Organ, chief operating officer, U.S. operations.

“Building on the successes of the last five years, it is the right time for me to make way for the next generation of leadership,” Sullivan said in a press release. “I am leaving our company in extremely capable hands. Dennis lives and breathes our operational excellence guiding principle. At his core, he tirelessly seeks out opportunities to improve the way we do business. We must be operationally excellent to succeed, and Dennis will continue to transform our company into a best in class operator in his role as president and chief executive officer.”

Sullivan joined Smithfield in 2003 and has served as chief financial officer, chief accounting officer, executive vice president, and vice president of finance. He was named chief operating officer and president of Smithfield in December 2015 and was named CEO shortly after. He has been a director of Smithfield and its parent company WH Group since January 2016.

Organ joined Smithfield in 2010 and assumed his current position as chief operating officer, U.S. operations, in 2019. For the past two years, he has overseen the day-to-day operations of the company’s entire vertically integrated domestic business, including its more than 40,000 team members across 32 states.

“I am incredibly thankful and excited to have the opportunity to lead and serve Smithfield,” Organ said. “I want to personally thank WH Group for their trust and confidence in me. We are tremendously fortunate to have had Ken at the helm of our company for the last five years, and particularly this past year. Thanks to Ken and his leadership, and the actions of our Smithfield Family, our ROI guiding principles now underpins everything we do and are our keys to success. Building on our ROI foundation together is our path forward.”

‘Unprecedented’ challenges in 2020

During his five years as president and CEO, Sullivan “delivered record results and led Smithfield through a monumental transformation,” according to a company press release. However, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic hit the company hard in 2020, contributing to a loss of US$72 million in adjusted operating results for the second quarter of 2020, a drop of 140%. The company said in August that it had spent US$350 million “to protect its team members and the American food supply during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Sullivan said the challenges of this year have been unprecedented.

“We have persevered through an extraordinary time in 2020. Together, we have met unprecedented challenges head-on,” Sullivan said in a statement. “I know the future holds great promise and opportunity for Smithfield and all its 55,000 team members in the U.S. and Europe.”

Sustainability initiatives

Sullivan has championed sustainability initiatives during his time at Smithfield.

“He has been an ardent supporter of the company’s social purpose to improve food security and end hunger by donating high-quality, nutritious food, and its philanthropic efforts that honor the service and sacrifice of American veterans and their families, among others,” the press release said.

This year, the company said it is committed to becoming carbon negative at all of its U.S. operations by 2030. Becoming carbon negative means the company will go beyond being carbon neutral by removing more carbon from the atmosphere than it emits. It says it will improve the diets of its pigs, use alternative feed ingredients and source grain locally, among other measures, to achieve this goal.

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