General Mills Taps Powell as Next CEO

General Mills Taps Powell as Next CEO

General Mills Taps Powell as Next CEO


Successor to Steve Sanger
Is Seen Continuing Plans
For Long-Term Growth

General Mills Inc. named Kendall Powell chief executive, succeeding longtime CEO Steve Sanger in what the company called a longtime succession plan.

Mr. Powell, 53 years old, who most recently served as president and chief operating officer, helped to develop the Minneapolis company's five long-term growth strategies, which include broadening the channels through which the company sells its products, expanding overseas and bringing more innovation to the business.

Mr. Sanger, 61, will remain chairman through the current fiscal year, which ends in May.

Mr. Powell isn't expected to deviate from the growth plans he had a hand in shaping. "I've worked closely with Steve on those things for the last three years," Mr. Powell said in an interview.

Under his watch, the company has started selling more of its products outside traditional supermarkets. Half of the sales of its Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen organic brands in fiscal 2007 came from natural and organic specialty stores, and a new line of Pillsbury miniature desserts soon will be carried in convenience stores.

General Mills also has been seeking new ways to grow internationally, both by increasing the reach of its cereals around the globe and by bringing a Chinese brand called Wanchai Ferry to the U.S. And the company has been pushing its brand managers to develop innovative new products, such as Fizzix, a new carbonated yogurt, and a new type of chocolate Chex cereal.

During his 28-year career at General Mills, Mr. Powell has served as president of the Yoplait yogurt division and of Big G cereals; chief executive of Cereal Partners Worldwide, a Switzerland-based joint venture with Nestlé SA; and chief operating officer of the company's U.S. retail division. Mr. Powell, who was named president and chief operating officer in June 2006, has a bachelor's degree in biology from Harvard and an M.B.A. from Stanford.

Mr. Powell says he wants to increase the company's efforts to market to Hispanic and African-American consumers. "I think we're going to accelerate our marketing activity there," he says.

Mr. Sanger had been CEO since May 1995, an unusually long tenure in the packaged-food industry. During that time, he steered the company through some tough times, including the difficult integration of the 2001 Pillsbury acquisition.

General Mills has enjoyed more success lately. The company reported earnings of $288.9 million, or 81 cents a share, for the quarter ended Aug. 26, up from $266.9 million, or 74 cents a share, a year ago. Revenue rose 7% to $3.07 billion. General Mills shares fell 61 cents, or 1%, to $57.88 in 4 p.m. New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

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