General Mills names COO Harmening new CEO

General Mills names COO Harmening new CEO

General Mills has announced the not entirely unexpected promotion of president and COO Jeff Harmening to chief executive of the US-based Cheerios and Yoplait owner.

Harmening, who had been reported to be under consideration for the role, will replace Ken Powell on 1 June. Powell, also General Mills' chairman, will stay on in that role "for a transition period until his retirement, expected within the next year".

General Mills made Harmening COO - a newly-created position - last summer, during which there was talk the Old El Paso and Nature Valley maker was lining up the 50-year-old to succeed Powell, who has spent a decade at the helm of the company.

Announcing the appointment today (3 May), Kerry Clark, the lead director of the General Mills board, said: "A key responsibility of a board is leading a thoughtful, robust succession planning process. The board unanimously cast its vote for Jeff as the best candidate to lead this venerable 150-year-old company. Jeff knows how to build talented teams and has extensive experience both in the U.S. and globally. He is not afraid to challenge the status quo and he is a tenacious and resilient leader."

Before becoming General Mills' president and COO, Harmening had been COO of General Mills' largest business, its US retail unit, for three years. He has worked for the company for over 20 years and his career includes a stint as CEO of Cereal Partners Worldwide, General Mills' international cereal joint venture with Nestle.

General Mills is struggling to eke out growth from its core US retail business and, in recent years, has made a series of acquisitions, including that of organic business Annie's and meat snacks maker Epic Provisions to try to improve its performance. The company has also backed a number fledgling US food companies through its in-house investment arm, 301 Inc.

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Harmening said he was "honoured to take the helm of General Mills at such an important point in its history". He added: "General Mills' employees are singularly focused on driving growth and returns for the long term, and it will be a privilege to help them reach that goal."

General Mills' shares, down more than 9% this year, closed up marginally on the day, rising 0.23% to US$56.05.