The company's Monday announcement of the executive shakeup took the market by surprise. Tyson Foods shares slid about 3% in pre-market trading questions arose on the company's leadership change, paring declines to 0.4% as of 10:28 a.m. in New York.
As of September 30, Noel White, who has served as a group president of Beef, Pork and International, will replace Tom Hayes as president and chief executive officer and will also join the board of directors. Tom Hayes is stepping down due to unspecified personal reasons.
"It is a very difficult decision to leave Tyson Foods, but after careful consideration and discussions with my family and the board, I know it is the right thing to do," Hayes said in a statement on Monday.
White, who served for Tyson Foods for 17 years, will assume leadership at a pivotal time for the company amid lingering questions about the future of the NAFTA agreement and global trade tariff concerns.
Climbing the LadderAccording to a biography available on the Arkansas-based company's website, White is a graduate of Bemidji State University in Minnesota.
After graduation from a lesser known university, White began his career for at future Tyson Foods acquisition IBP, Inc. in 1983, working in the company's sales and marketing department.
From that starting point, he worked his way all the way up to leadership positions in the company prior to its acquisition by Tyson Foods in 2001.
In his 17 years at Tyson, he has worked as a senior group vice president of fresh meats, senior vice president for fresh meat sales and marketing, and senior vice president, pork product management, president of poultry, and chief operations officer.
Most recently, White has served as group president of beef, pork and international business.
John Tyson, chairman of the board of directors for the company, focused specifically on the company's inroads to international markets amid a difficult environment.
"He has run our beef, pork, and poultry businesses and is now helping Tyson Foods capitalize on international opportunities," he said in a company statement this morning.
In his role as president of international business, White helped oversee one of the largest exporters of food products in the United States.
According to recent SEC filings, the company has reported over $4 billion in export sales in all but two of the past six years. Export sales peaked at $4.7 billion in fiscal 2014, making up almost 13% of sales in that year.
The international focus is set to come to the forefront for the company moving forward, as the company looks to grow globally to lessen the impact of tariffs and NAFTA changes.
"Noel will continue to oversee Tyson Foods' ongoing expansion into new product categories and maintain the company's focus on global growth, innovation, value-added capabilities and customer partnerships to drive long-term value," director of media relations Gary Mickelson told Real Money this morning.
Tariff Trouble to Navigate
Recently, this segment has become pressured by tariff problems that have made their products more expensive abroad, especially in China.
Of Tyson's $38.3 billion in sales reported in 2017, just $3.9 billion came from exports, a significant reduction from just a few years ago.
Steve Stouffer, president of fresh meats at the company, touched on the substantial impact that tariffs have had on the White-led segment.
"Last year alone, exports generated about 19 percent of our pork sales and 15 percent of our beef sales," he wrote in a company objection to tariffs earlier this year. "But, now - because of the ongoing trade war and the tariffs its produced - we're getting less for our products in some key markets."