31 May 2000

US-based consumer products multinational Sara Lee is to prune its diverse product portfolio from five sectors to three in an effort to boost its flagging share price.

The new strategy – the brainchild of Steven McMillan, Sara Lee's first new chief executive in twenty-five years - will see the sale or spin-off of the group’s coach leather, food services and certain clothing businesses. Remaining as core sectors will be food and beverages (including meat, coffee and tea), underwear, and personal products such as Kiwi shoe cleaners.

McMillan unveiled the strategy in New York yesterday, a month ahead of his moving into the driving seat at the Chicago-based company where he is to inherit the mantle of chief executive from long-serving chief executive and chairman John Bryan. Mr Bryan will remain as chairman until 2001.

The new kid on the block aims to focus on the group’s expertise in making and marketing packaged consumer products. He also hopes to raise profit growth, although stressing that his plan is unlikely to bear fruit before 2002.

News source: Financial Times