Chris O’Leary, the head of General Mills‘ operations outside the US, is to leave the Old El Paso and Cheerios maker at the end of the year.

O’Leary, who was appointed to the role of COO for General Mills’ international businesses in 2006 after nine years with the company, will step down from the role on 31 December. He will work for General Mills in an “advisory” capacity until 30 June next year at the latest.

O’Leary joined General Mills in December 1997 as vice president for corporate growth. He moved on to roles as president of General Mills’ meals division and vice president of corporate development.

In an SEC filing, General Mills described O’Leary’s exit as an “anticipated departure”. Jeff Harmening, General Mills’ president and COO, “will assume direct accountability for the company’s international operations” from next year, the company added.

General Mills has yet to respond to a request for further comment.

Harmening, who has spent over two decades at General Mills, was promoted to a newly-created role of group COO in June. He had been the head of General Mills’ US business since 2014.

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In August, reports in the US claimed Harmening was been prepared by the company to replace General Mills CEO Ken Powell, sparking industry watchers to suggest O’Leary, seen as an alternative internal candidate to succeed Powell, could be offered a CEO appointment elsewhere.