Jeffrey L. Harmening has been named c.e.o. of General Mills.

MINNEAPOLIS — Jeffrey L. Harmening has been elected by General Mills, Inc.’s board of directors to be the next chief executive officer of the company effective June 1. Mr. Harmening will succeed Kendall J. Powell, who will remain chairman of the company during a transition and then retire.

Mr. Harmening is currently the president and chief operating officer of General Mills. Prior to becoming president and c.o.o., Mr. Harmening led General Mills’ retail business, where he was instrumental in expanding the company’s presence in the natural and organic categories with the acquisition of such businesses as Annie’s and Epic Provisions.

Ken Powell, General Mills
Kendall J. Powell

“General Mills has a long tradition of delivering top-tier returns that our shareholders have counted on for generations,” Mr. Powell said. “We are focused on growth and feel strongly that Jeff is the right leader for the next leg of our journey.”

Mr. Harmening originally joined General Mills in 1994 after graduating from Harvard Business School, Boston, with a master's degree in business administration. He holds a bachelor's degree from DePauw University, Greencastle, Ind.

“I am honored to take the helm of General Mills at such an important point in its history,” Mr. Harmening said. “Building on the legacy of those that have led this great company before me is an exciting challenge and one I do not take on alone. General Mills’ employees are singularly focused on driving growth and returns for the long term, and it will be a privilege to help them reach that goal.”

Mr. Powell was elected c.e.o. of General Mills in 2007 and elected chairman in 2008. He started with the company in 1979 and held various positions throughout General Mills. He helped launch Cereal Partners Worldwide (C.P.W.), the company’s joint venture with Nestle S.A., in 1990 and, after stints as president of Yoplait USA and Big G cereals, he became c.e.o. of C.P.W. in 1999. In 2006, he was elected president and chief operating officer of the company.

“Under Ken’s leadership as c.e.o., the company made significant strides to expand globally, developed a culture of Holistic Margin Management, and redoubled its focus on meeting the ever-changing needs of consumers,” said R. Kerry Clark, independent lead director of the General Mills board. “These achievements have resulted in outstanding value creation for General Mills shareholders, including 11% compound annual total shareholder returns.”