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Smithfield Foods shakes up management team under new CEO

CHICAGO, Jan 7 (Reuters) - Smithfield Foods on Thursday unveiled a management shakeup as the world’s largest pork processor and its new chief executive deal with the ripple effects of a pandemic-led drop in restaurant meat consumption and coronavirus infections among U.S. workers.

The pandemic has reduced demand for meat at restaurants, cafeterias and other food-service outlets, delivering an economic shock to Smithfield and its rivals. Thousands of meatpacking workers have been infected with the new coronavirus, including at Smithfield plants, and meat companies have faced criticism for not doing more to protect their employees.

Smithfield CEO Dennis Organ, who was previously the company’s chief operating officer, had been scheduled to take the reins in early 2021, but the change was pushed up to late November.

The shake-up announced by the Smithfield, Virginia-based company on Thursday includes the retirements of the chief commodity hedging officer, two executives in the packaged meats division and a senior adviser to the CEO, after decades at the company.

The company, owned by Hong Kong’s WH Group Ltd, said Organ had promoted some executives to new positions, including Russ Dokken to chief sales officer from executive vice president of U.S. packaged meats.

Scott Saunders becomes chief supply chain officer after working as executive vice president of the company’s U.S. supply chain and president of fresh pork.

Joe Weber was promoted to chief commodity hedging officer from executive vice president of growth and emerging business.

“This team will carry our company forward and make Operational Excellence our standard,” Organ said in a statement.

Smithfield announced the retirement of Dhamu Thamodaran, who was chief commodity hedging officer, executive vice president and chief strategy officer.

Also retiring are John Pauley, chief commercial officer of packaged meats; Bill Michels, senior vice president of operations for packaged meats; and Michael Cole, senior advisor to the CEO and corporate secretary, according to Smithfield.

The company said in November that Organ, who replaced former CEO Kenneth Sullivan, had “moved swiftly to install a new leadership team.”

Smithfield last year said it was headed for record profits before the pandemic hit and spent more than $600 million on employee health and safety measures. (Reporting by Mark Weinraub and Tom Polansek Editing by Paul Simao)

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