Sara Lee Corp., Downers Grove, Ill., said it hired Sean Connollyas chief executive officer of itsNorth American Retail and Foodservice business effective January 17, 2012.  Officials said Connolly will serve as chief executive officer ofMeatCo(Sara Lee’s North American Meats business) following the spin off of its International Coffee and Tea business, expected to be completed in the second calendar quarter of 2012. 

"We are very excited to have Sean Connolly serve as the head of our MeatCo business as we prepare for it to become a separate pure-play, publicly-held company,” said Sara Lee Corp.’s Executive Chairman Jan Bennink.  “He has extensive experience in the American food industry, coupled with a strong track record as a great innovator, particularly in mature categories.  These strengths will allow him to take a fresh look at the business and enable the company to reach its full potential.”

Sara Lee said Connolly, 46, will join Sara Lee from the Campbell Soup Company where he currently serves as president of Campbell North America, the company’s largest division accounting for approximately $4.6 billion in annual revenues, a position he held since October 2010.  Prior to this position, he served as president, Campbell USA and president, North American Foodservice.  Sara Lee said the under Connolly's leadership, Campbell's core condensed soup business grew sales and profit after years of decline, and the V8 Beverage business experienced significant, innovation-driven growth.  Connolly joined Campbell in 2002 as vice president, Food Brands.

Before joining Campbell, Connolly served in various marketing and brand management roles at Procter & Gamble for a decade.  He earned his B.A. degree in economics from Vanderbilt University, and his M.B.A. degree in general management from the University of Texas at Austin.

“The North American Meats business, with its leading brands and strong market position, has tremendous opportunities for growth as a pure-play company,” said Connolly.  “I look forward to working with an experienced and talented team to build this successful new company and create value for shareholders.”

Connolly succeeds Marcel Smits, chief executive officer, Sara Lee Corp., who assumed responsibilities for leading the North American business in September 2011 until a permanent leader was named.