Pilgrim’s Pride CEO, COO Resign

Nation’s largest chicken producer said Tuesday its President and Chief Executive Clint Rivers and its Chief Operating Officer, Robert A. Wright have resigned.

PITTSBURG, Texas (AP) -- Pilgrim's Pride Corp., which recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, said Tuesday its President and Chief Executive Clint Rivers has resigned.

The chicken producer said Rivers will be succeeded by Don Jackson, subject to approval of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas. Jackson, who will join the company immediately on an interim basis, was president of Foster Farms' poultry division, a poultry producer on the West Coast.

Pilgrim's Pride also said Jackson would also assume the duties of Robert A. Wright, chief operating officer, who also resigned Tuesday.

The company's board appointed Lonnie Ken Pilgrim, its current chairman, as interim president until the bankruptcy court approves Jackson's employment.

A statement from the company said Jackson will give the company fresh perspective as it undertakes a restructuring.

The nation's largest chicken producer, saddled by debt and volatile commodity costs, filed for bankruptcy protection on Dec. 1.

Jackson comes to Pilgrim's Pride from Livingston, Calif.-based Foster Farms' poultry division, where he has served as president since 2000. Before that he was executive vice president for foodservice of the former ConAgra Poultry Co. in Duluth, Ga.

He also worked for 22 years for Seaboard Farms, based in Athens, Ga., and was president and CEO of their poultry division for four years.

Lonnie "Bo" Pilgrim, senior chairman of Pilgrim's Pride, said in a statement the company felt it would benefit from fresh perspective on the "opportunities available to us through restructuring."

The company has been struggling, along with other meat makers, due to high costs for animal feed, which is made with expensive corn and soybeans. There's also an oversupply of meat on the market and weak demand, especially from restaurants as consumers cut back on their spending. Those factors have hurt these companies' ability to raise prices and recoup those high costs.

Meat producers have been cutting production, but that hasn't helped pricing yet.

Pilgrim's is doubly hurt since it has been saddled by a large debt load connected to its $1.3 billion acquisition of rival Gold Kist Inc. in 2007.

The company's lenders extended financing several times this fall but the company ultimately filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this month.

Pilgrim's posted a loss of $998.6 million, or $14.40 a share, in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 27. That compared to earnings of $47 million, or 71 cents, the year before. Sales rose 13.7 percent to $8.53 billion.

The company took a charge in the fourth quarter of $501.4 million, or $6.77 per share, primarily related to the declining value of Gold Kist.

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