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story.lead_photo.caption The Tyson Technology Center at Tyson World Headquarters in Springdale. - Photo by Anthony Reyes

Tyson Foods has appointed Dean Banks, a startup investor, former U.S. Marine and tech entrepreneur, to be the food-packer's new president.

Banks, 46, has been a Tyson board member the past two years while working at X, formerly known as Google X, the research and development arm of tech giant Alphabet Inc.

Tyson said Banks will start as president on Dec. 20. Noel White, 61, Tyson's president and chief executive officer, will continue as chief executive officer.

In his new role, Banks will report to White and oversee the company's business segments. Tyson said he will also remain as a board member and be considered a "non-independent director."

"I look forward to bringing my skills and experience to Tyson Foods on a full‐time basis," Banks said in prepared remarks.

"I am honored to join Noel and his team as we continue to take bold actions to drive growth for the company now and into the future, and I look forward to returning to the heartland when my family and I relocate to Springdale in the near future," he said.

Alan Ellstrand, associate dean of the Walton College of Business at the University of Arkansas, said Banks' appointment is an unusual move.

"When you're CEO you don't normally give up the president role, and frankly, a lot of corporations don't have a president role," Ellstrand said. "It's much more common to have a [chief executive] or [chief operating officer] model ... It's rare you see it split off."

The last time Tyson gave the roles of president and CEO to two people was in the summer of 2016, when Tom Hayes was president and Donnie Smith was CEO.

A move like this indicates that "he's being groomed for possibly being a CEO someday" or major growth within the company, Ellstrand said. Last year, Tyson completed a $2.16 billion acquisition of Keystone Foods, adding several facilities across the U.S., Asia and Australia and increasing its global output.

In prepared remarks, John Tyson, the company's chairman, said he has gotten to know Banks while on the board of directors, where he has proved himself to be a thoughtful leader and admirer of the Tyson culture.

"As the board reflected on its talent acquisition and development pipeline, it became apparent, given Dean's strong cultural fit with our organization and unique leadership experience and background in innovation and technology, that we could benefit from his distinctive abilities and personality on our enterprise leadership team," Tyson said.

Before joining Alphabet, Banks held management and executive roles for companies in the health care, biotechnology and venture capital sectors. As a board member for Tyson, he has served on two committees that identify new talent for the company's board and provides oversight on long-term strategy, including investments, acquisitions and divestitures.

"It sounds like they've identified someone with entrepreneurial spirit," Ellstrand said. "Tyson has been investing in a lot of smaller companies," including cell-cultured producer Memphis Meats and Tovala smart ovens, "so I think this is all pretty consistent," he said.

Banks has a master's degree from Harvard Business School and a bachelor's in marketing and public relations from Miami University. He also was a platoon sergeant and squad leader in the Marines.

Business on 11/07/2019

Print Headline: Tyson splits off president's role

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