Update: Banks Out, King In as Tyson Foods CEO


Update: Banks Out, King In as Tyson Foods CEO
Donnie King, president and CEO of Tyson Foods Inc. in Springdale (Tyson Foods)

Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale said Wednesday that Donnie King would replace Dean Banks as the company’s president and CEO after Banks resigned for personal reasons.

Banks had been president and CEO of Tyson Foods since Oct. 3, 2020, when he replaced Noel White as CEO. King has been the company’s COO since February 2021, but spent 37 of the past 39 years of his career at Tyson.

White, now vice chairman of the board of directors, served from September 2018 until Banks replaced him.

Banks has also resigned as a member of the company’s board. He joined the board in 2017 and was named president in 2019. He had an extensive history as an executive with technology companies, including X, an Alphabet Inc. company (formerly known as Google [x]), SEED Ventures and Vergent Bioscience.

When Banks was announced as the next CEO in August 2020, company Chairman John Tyson said his appointment was part of the board's "deliberate, long-term succession planning."

Tyson Foods didn’t release much information about Banks’ decision to step down after approximately eight months at the top. According to a proxy statement filed with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission in December, he was the company’s top earner in fiscal 2020 with more than $12.7 million in total compensation.

Banks’ CEO tenure began Oct. 3, the same day that fiscal 2021 began, and Tyson Foods said his salary would be $1.2 million. His salary as president was approximately $920,000 in 2020.

The proxy also said Banks received a $5 million bonus when he signed on as CEO that he would have to repay if he didn’t establish a permanent residence in northwest Arkansas by December 2020 or if he voluntarily resigned before December 2021.

“Being a part of Tyson Foods has been a very rewarding experience,” Banks said in a news release. “Upon deep personal reflection, and discussions with my family, the board, and my colleagues, I believe that stepping down and concentrating on my family is the right decision at this time.”

King, the new CEO, joined Tyson Foods in 1982 but left in 2017 when then-CEO Tom Hayes restructured the company’s leadership. King rejoined the company after Hayes resigned, also for personal reasons, in 2019; Hayes is now CEO of Ocean Spray in Massachusetts.

King was named poultry president in September 2020. He has served in a variety of executive roles during his long tenure, including president of North America operations and group president of International.

Tyson Foods said King’s salary as CEO would be $1.2 million and he would receive $750,000 in stock options and $750,000 in restricted stock. King was not a named executive in the most recent proxy filing.

“I’m humbled but excited about leading Tyson Foods, a company that feeds millions of people and means so much to me personally,” King said. “I believe we need to be sharply focused on operating with excellence, executing our strategies, and continuing to innovate across our businesses throughout the world. With our strong leadership team, we are committed to winning with our customers and delivering an outstanding team member experience.”

The company said through a spokesman that it was not commenting further on the change in leadership. Tyson Foods has had three CEOS — Hayes, White and Banks — since December 2016, when Hayes replaced Donnie Smith, who had been CEO for seven years.

Gary Mickelson, the company spokesman, said King has “committed to stay for the time necessary to lead our company back to operational excellence in our poultry business, continue executing on our company’s strategies and accelerate the development of our talent pipeline.”

“The board and I know that Donnie has a deep understanding of our business, values and culture and the solid leadership skills needed to continue to implement our strategy and deliver strong results,” John Tyson said. “We want to express our appreciation to Dean for his contributions as a board member and executive.”