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OMAHA, Neb. -- ConAgra Foods' chairman and c.e.o., Bruce Rohde, launched a formal search for his own successor yesterday.
As part of the company's strategic planning process, Rohde discussed succession issues with the board of directors while requesting the formation of a search committee that will be headed by Steven F. Goldstone, director and retired chairman and c.e.o. of RJR Nabisco.
"My goal here is to set the stage for purposeful succession planning," said the 56-year-old Rohde, who has served as ConAgra Foods' chief executive since September 1997, and chairman since September 1998. "Because of a diligent board and a dedicated team of people, the right things have happened over the past several years. The company has made significant progress and in my view is now well poised for a new and significant phase of execution and growth."
During Rohde's time at the helm, ConAgra has been transformed from an agriculturally-based conglomerate into one of North America's largest packaged foods companies, focused on retail, foodservice and ingredient customers. When he took over as c.e.o., more than half of the company's sales were derived from commodities; in 2004, earnings and dividends set records, and more than 80 percent of the company's sales were derived from branded and value-added foods.
"As a result of Bruce's leadership, ConAgra Foods is greatly transformed. When we recruited him as c.e.o., we were looking for someone who was capable of rationalizing and consolidating a business that had grown very quickly through multiple acquisitions," said Carl E. Reichardt, lead director of ConAgra Foods' board and retired chairman and c.e.o. of Wells Fargo & Co.
"He did that and more, improving the company's focus, increasing profit margins and prudently allocating capital towards strategic acquisitions, debt reduction, share repurchases and dividends. He also focused on building corporate-wide systems and processes that place the company in a position to execute its sales, marketing and operating programs in a highly coordinated way," added Reichardt.
Among ConAgra Foods' most popular consumer brands are: Armour, Banquet, Blue Bonnet, Brown 'N Serve, Butterball, Cook's, Eckrich, Egg Beaters, Fleischmann's, Healthy Choice, Hebrew National, Louis Kemp, Manwich, Marie Callender's, Orville Redenbacher's, Peter Pan, Reddi-wip, Rosarita, Slim Jim, Snack Pack, and Swiss Miss.