Sara Lee Corp chief Brenda Barnes is recovering from a stroke that prompted her to abruptly take medical leave last month, and the company said it would update investors on her condition and plans by August 12.
The comments were the first details of the situation since the foodmaker announced Barnes' medical leave on May 14, without disclosing the cause. Sara Lee shares rose more than 2 percent.
The company, whose products includes Sara Lee baked goods and Jimmy Dean sausage, said it would provide an update on Barnes' health and her future plans when it will hold a conference call in August to discuss its full-year earnings.
I know there has been a lot of speculation on my condition, so I want to take the opportunity to provide some details, said Barnes, 56. I suffered a stroke a few weeks ago, and I am now in the process of recuperating.
Analysts have been supportive of the interim team that has been running the company in Barnes' absence, including Chief Financial Officer Marcel Smits, who has been acting CEO.
He seems very knowledgeable, he has experience and he seems to have a very deep understanding for what is going on in the business, Morningstar analyst Erin Swanson said.
Smits joined the company as CFO on October 1, so it was not clear if he would want to take over as full-time chief executive officer, Swanson said.
Barnes became CEO in 2005 and has led a major restructuring at Sara Lee, focusing the company on businesses like food and coffee, while divesting lines like the Hanes underwear business.
Sara Lee has reached agreements to sell its body care business to Unilever Plc/NV and is also set to sell parts of its Ambi Pur air freshener business to Procter & Gamble Co .
A Sara Lee spokesman said Barnes' leave had not affected those sales.
It's business as usual right now, spokesman Jon Harris said.
Sara Lee shares were up 2.3 percent at $14.97 on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock had been largely unaffected by Barnes's sudden departure.
(Additional reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)