SPRINGDALE, Ark—Tyson Foods, the Arkansas-based food production and distribution giant, has announced that Tom Hayes, the current president of Tyson Foods, will succeed Donnie Smith as Chief Executive Officer December 31. Hayes will continue to serve as president and, effective immediately, will take a seat on the board of directors.

In a press release issued Monday, John Tyson, Chairman of the Board of Tyson Foods, praised the decision.

“Tom Hayes is a proven leader who has played an important role in creating today’s Tyson Foods and driving growth across our company,” Tyson said in the release. “The plan we have announced today will result in a smooth leadership transition that positions Tyson Foods for continued growth and innovation. The Board’s decision to name Tom CEO at this time was based on both his track record and how his skills align with the company’s strategic direction and continuing evolution.”

Smith has served as CEO of Tyson Foods since November 2009, helping to build a platform to support a hybrid strategy to produce branded prepared food products along with fresh chicken, beef, pork, and specialty meats. Hayes was appointed president earlier this year. He has been involved in the consumer products industry for almost 30 years, and has worked in several capacities with Tyson Foods, and has also worked for Hillshire Brands, Sara Lee North America, U.S. Foodservice, ConAgra Foods, The Fort James Corporation, Stella Foods and Kraft Foods.

Hayes has served on the executive committee of the board of the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) and the board of directors for the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA). Hayes earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology from the University of New Hampshire and a Master of Business Administration degree from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Tyson Foods is headquartered in Springdale, and markets under the brands Tyson®, Jimmy Dean®, Hillshire Farm®, Sara Lee®, Ball Park®, Wright®, Aidells® and State Fair