General Mills Parts With U.S. CMO, Plans to Eliminate as Many as 600 Jobs

By Patrick Coffee 

It’s not just ad agencies. Clients downsize during the holiday season, too.

Today General Mills, which celebrated its 150th anniversary this year, announced that its first move after setting an ad agency lineup would be “a new organizational structure” for the global organization.

This reshuffling includes the termination of the international chief operating officer role and the departure of U.S. SVP/CMO Ann Simonds.


It will also eliminate 400-600 jobs around the world, “subject to consultation with employees and employee representatives in locations as required.” This is a relatively small move for an organization that employs an estimated 39,000 people in full and part-time positions.

Today a spokesperson confirmed that Simonds has “announced her intention to leave the company at the end of the year.” She spent just over two years in the CMO role, which is standard tenure for one in her position though she has worked at General Mills for more than 20 years under various titles and played a key role in the marketing of its many, many consumer goods brands. Simonds also led the recent round of reviews along with CCO Michael Fanuele. As you know, U.S. AOR duties went to the MDC Partners team of 72andSunny and Redscout while Joan, Erich & Kallman and The Community won project-based work.

General Mills has instead decided to create a global CMO position, and the company is currently seeking external candidates to fill it.

The big promotion in this case goes to president and U.S. COO Jeff Harmening. He will now run global operations and effectively take over for PepsiCo veteran Christopher D. O’Leary, whose job will be eliminated as mentioned above. The company has split into four regional groups, each led by a local executive who will report directly to Harmening.

The dairy unit, which is based in France and makes Yoplait and Häagen-Dazs, will effectively operate independently while still reporting to Harmening.

The explanation for the change is fairly simple: declining sales around the world. In September, overall numbers dropped for the fifth straight quarter as General Mills announced plans to focus more resources on the yogurt category; it also sold Green Giant and Le Sueur to B&G just over a year ago.

“As we wrap up our 150th anniversary year, we are ready to take the next step in our journey to truly operate as a global company and fully resource our best ideas to drive growth,” said chairman and CEO Ken Powell in a statement.

It’s not clear at this time which departments or regions will be most affected by the job cuts or how the new structure will act to maximize GM’s global scale. But like recent moves made by P&G and other such companies, it looks a lot like an attempt to cut costs wherever possible.