Foodmaker Sara Lee Corp's Chief Executive Brenda Barnes will step down permanently as CEO and chairman after being on a medical leave since May and the company said it has started a search for her successor.

Barnes, who suffered from a stroke that prompted her to abruptly take medical leave, became CEO in 2005 and has led a major restructuring at Sara Lee.

The company, which will consider both internal and external candidates for the position, said Chief Financial Officer Marcel Smits will continue as interim CEO and Mark Garvey will continue as interim CFO.

Shares of the company, whose products include Sara Lee baked goods and Jimmy Dean sausage, closed at $14.84 Friday on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Shobhana Chadha in Bangalore; Editing by Aradhana Aravindan)