Sara Lee Corp.'sboard of directors today announced that Chairman & CEO Brenda Barnes, who has been on medical leave since May 14, will step down permanently so she can can improve her health. Barnes has been recovering from a stroke.

Sara Lee also said Barnes resigned from Sara Lee's board and will not stand for re-election at the company's 2010 annual stockholders meeting in October.

Sara lee said it has begin searching for a new chief executive officer and that its process would consider both internal and external candidates. Meanwhile, Marcel Smitswill continue as interim chief executive andMark Garveywill continue as interim chief financial officer.James Crown, an independent director, will remain chairman of the board, a role he assumed when Barnes' leave of absence began. Crown also will lead Sara Lee's Office of the Chairman, which includes Crown, Smits andCJ Fraleigh, chief executive officer for North American Retail and Foodservice.

"We fully support Brenda's decision to step down as chairman and CEO so she can devote all of her time and energy toward improving her health," said Crown.

He added, ". . . During Brenda's six-year tenure as CEO, she successfully transformed Sara Lee into a strong global food and beverage company with a focused portfolio of leading brands. She exited low-margin businesses and dramatically increased the company's investment in innovation, while strengthening its potion in high-growth emerging markets."