US consumer goods giant Sara Lee, maker of such diverse brands as Playtex bras and Jammie Dodgers cookies, is to dispose of nearly half its product range.

The $8.2 billion (€6.3bn, £4.4bn) auction will be overseen by newly appointed ceo Brenda Barnes, 51, a former senior PepsiCo executive who joined Sara Lee as chief operating officer last year.

The sprawling Chicago-based company intends to sell its clothing brands, European packaged meats, direct-selling and US retail coffee divisions, which together generated forty percent of Sara Lee's $19.6bn sales last year.

Spinning off the apparel division, valued at around $4bn, is the group's biggest divestment; it is also Sara Lee's biggest headache with the loss of more than four thousand jobs last year amid competition from cheap Chinese and Indian clothing.

Says outgoing ceo Steve McMillan: "We are taking bold steps that we feel necessary to transform Sara Lee into a company that will achieve greater and more consistent long-term growth."

Data sourced from The Times Online (UK) and; additional content by WARC staff