Michael Cummins is latest Hillshire veteran to join ConAgra

The former director of corporate communications at Hillshire is joining ConAgra as VP of corp comms, reporting to fellow Hillshire alum and ConAgra chief communications officer Jon Harris.

OMAHA, NE: ConAgra Foods has hired Hillshire Brands veteran Michael Cummins as VP of corporate communications as it restructures and rebrands as a consumer-facing business.

Cummins, former director of corporate communications at Hillshire, will report to chief communications officer Jon Harris, who was previously the comms leader at Hillshire. At the top of the ladder is Sean Connolly, Hillshire’s former CEO.

The Omaha, Nebraska-based food manufacturer, known for brands such as Slim Jim, is moving its headquarters to the Merchandise Mart in Chicago by the end of June, Harris said.

"One of the things we’re working on is moving the headquarters, so [Harris] has been working to reshape the communications function, and [he] had an opportunity for me and I jumped at the chance to work with [Harris] and [Connolly]," Cummins said. "It’s a new opportunity but very familiar at the same time."

Cummins described his position as "your traditional corporate communications role." His core duties include handling media relations, CSR, executive positioning, social media, and crisis communications. He anticipates having a team of about three people working for him.

Harris explained the move to Chicago will be a big part of ConAgra’s restructuring effort to be a "pure-focused brand company."

"For the most part, our consumer business was based here in Naperville, in the Chicago area, for the last decade," Harris said. "So only one part of our business, the frozen business, was based in Omaha. We thought it would make sense to consolidate and bring everyone to Chicago. There is tremendous food talent in the area, in consumer-packaged goods. I really think it’s probably the best city in the world for consumer-packaged goods talent."

Harris added ConAgra has also hired executives for brand marketing communications, internal communications, corporate communications, and foundation and corporate giving.

After announcing a $300 million cost-savings initiative late last year, ConAgra reduced its workforce by about 30% across all offices, with about 1,000 jobs trimmed in Omaha. Three hundred of those positions are moving to Chicago, and 2,000 will remain in the greater Omaha area, Harris said.

ConAgra also sold Private Brands for $2.7 billion to TreeHouse, making it the largest maker of store-branded groceries in the U.S. ConAgra then said it would spin off Lamp Weston into a separate company, forming two independent public companies.

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