UPDATE 2-Sara Lee CEO Barnes to take medical leave

* CEO Brenda Barnes to take medical leave of absence

* CFO Marcel Smits to serve as interim CEO

* Company forms Office of the Chairman

(Adds details, background)

NEW YORK, May 14 (BestGrowthStock) – Sara Lee Corp (SLE.N: ) said on
Friday its chairman and chief executive, Brenda Barnes, will
take a medical leave of absence, effective immediately.

Chief Financial Officer Marcel Smits will serve as interim
CEO until Barnes returns, the company said. James Crown, its
lead independent director, will assume the role of chairman.

The company declined to comment on the nature of Barnes’
condition, citing her privacy. Barnes is 56.

In addition, Sara Lee said it formed an office of the
chairman — comprised of Smits, Crown and Christopher John
Fraleigh, CEO of its North American Retail and Foodservice unit
— “to ensure the continued effective execution of strategic
initiatives and further enhance operational efficiencies.”

Marcel Smits, 48, takes the reins of the maker of Sara Lee
bread, Senseo coffee and Jimmy Dean sausage, as it is remaking
its portfolio, focusing on food and coffee and selling off
other businesses.

The company is slated to sell its European body-care
business to Unilever Plc (ULVR.L: ) and parts of its Ambi Pur air
freshener business to Procter & Gamble Co (PG.N: ).

Earlier this week the company said it would sell its 51
percent stake in Godrej Sara Lee Ltd, a joint venture that
markets insecticides in India, to Godrej Consumer Products Ltd
(GOCP.BO: ) for 185 million euros ($233.7 million).

The company said at the time it continued to receive strong
interest in the remainder of the business, which includes shoe
care, non-Indian insecticides and certain non-European cleaning


Barnes joined Sara Lee in July 2004 as chief operating
officer. She became CEO in February 2005 and chairman later
that year. She previously spent 22 years at PepsiCo, where she
was CEO of PepsiCola North America.

“We wish Brenda (Barnes) a speedy recovery and look forward
to her return,” Crown said in a statement. “Out of respect for
Brenda’s privacy, we will not be commenting further.”

A company spokesman declined to comment beyond the

Disclosing information about the medical condition of a top
executive can be a sensitive topic. Electronics maker Apple Inc (Read more about Apple stock future.)
(AAPL.O: ) came under fire and saw wild swings in its stock price
after it was vague about founder and CEO Steve Jobs’ pancreatic
cancer last year.

Sara Lee, based in Downers Grove, Illinois, said it named
Mark Garvey as its interim CFO to replace Smits.

Smits joined Sara Lee in October 2009 from Dutch
telecommunications firm Koninklijke KPN NV.

Sara Lee shares closed on the New York Stock Exchange at
$14.70 on Friday, down 1.1 percent. There was no after-hours
trading in the shares following the news about Barnes.

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(Reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by Andre Grenon)

UPDATE 2-Sara Lee CEO Barnes to take medical leave