NEW ALBANY, OHIO — Steve Davis is out as chief executive officer of Bob Evans Farms, Inc. The announcement comes less than four months after four board nominees proposed by investor Sandell Asset Management were elected to the company’s 12-member board at Bob Evans’ annual meeting. At that time, Tom Sandell, c.e.o. of Sandell Asset Management, said the election results underscored the call for change among Bob Evans shareholders.
Bob Evans has dealt with difficult market conditions, leading investors to question the direction of the company. Mr. Davis had stated his commitment to keeping the food service and foods businesses together while shareholders led by Sandell Asset Management have proposed spinning off the food business.
While Mr. Davis’ departure as c.e.o. will take place immediately, he will remain with the company through the end of the year to assist with the transition process, the company said.
Bob Evans also announced that its board has established an interim office of the c.e.o. to provide ongoing leadership and oversight of the day-to-day operations of the company while a search is conducted for a new c.e.o. The office of the c.e.o. is to be filled by Mark Hood, chief financial officer, and Mike Townsley, president of the Bob Evans Foods business unit. Both will remain in their current positions while carrying out their new responsibilities.
To provide ongoing support for the office of the c.e.o., the board also has formed a transition committee, consisting of independent directors Mary Kay Haben, Doug Benham and Larry McWilliams, with Ms. Haben serving as the chair of the committee. The leadership changes are effective immediately.
Bob Evans said its board has formed a c.e.o. search committee to supervise the selection and evaluation by the board of candidates for election as new c.e.o. The committee consists of independent directors Mary Kay Haben, Doug Benham, David Head, Kathy Lane and Paul Williams, who will serve as chair. The committee will retain an executive search firm to assist it in conducting the search.
“The independent directors unanimously concluded that as the company strives to improve performance, it would benefit from new leadership and enhanced execution,” said Ms. Haben, non-executive chair of the board. “We thank Steve for his tireless efforts, dedication and many significant achievements as c.e.o. of Bob Evans for over eight years, and we wish him the best in his future endeavors. We have a strong, dedicated organization, and are confident in Mike and Mark’s ability to lead the company as we conduct a search for a new c.e.o. We look forward to a smooth transition.”
Mr. Hood was named c.f.o. of Bob Evans Farms, Inc. in June 2014. Prior to joining Bob Evans, he was senior vice-president and c.f.o. of the Brown Shoe Co. from 2006 to 2012. Previously, he was senior vice-president and c.f.o. of Panera Bread Co. from 2003 to 2006, after joining that company in 2002. His prior experience includes two decades of service with May Department Stores Company, Inc., Saks Holdings, Inc., and U.S. Loyalty Corp., in various financial and administrative senior management roles. A certified public accountant, he began his career as an auditor with Arthur Andersen L.L.P. He received a bachelor’s of science degree in accounting and economics from Iowa State University.Mr. Townsley was named president of the Bob Evans Foods business unit in June 2008. He joined Bob Evans Farms Inc. in 2003 as president and chief operating officer of Owens Foods, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bob Evans Farms, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice-president of sales and marketing for Premium Standard Farms in Kansas City. His prior experience includes three years at Smithfield Foods and 11 years with IBP Inc. He received a bachelor’s of science degree in agriculture from The Ohio State University.