Pilgrim’s Pride CEO takes leave of absence after indictment

GREELEY — Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. CEO Jayson Penn has begun a paid leave of absence in the wake of his indictment for alleged price fixing. Pilgrim’s Pride (Nasdaq: PPC) announced the leave of absence Sunday.

The company said that Penn “intends to focus on his defense of the recently disclosed indictment against him, to which he has pleaded not guilty.”

The Pilgrim’s Pride board of directors named Chief Financial Officer Fabio Sandri to serve as interim president and CEO.

“Pilgrim’s operates with the highest standards of integrity and is committed to free and open competition that benefits both customers and consumers,” Gilberto Tomazoni, chairman of Pilgrim’s board of directors, said in a prepared statement. “The board takes the recent allegations very seriously and believes it is in the best interests of both Jayson and the company that he is given the opportunity to focus on his legal defense during this time. Jayson has built a strong leadership team at Pilgrim’s. The board has complete confidence in the ability of Fabio and the team to continue to implement Pilgrim’s strategy and successfully run day-to-day operations.”

Sandri joined Pilgrim’s as CFO in June 2011.

Penn was among four agribusiness executives indicted recently by a grand jury for the U.S. District Court in Denver on antitrust charges tied to allegations that major poultry producers conspired to fix broiler chicken prices. He has pled not guilty.