The company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this month, said late Tuesday Rivers will be succeeded by Don Jackson, subject to approval of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of Texas. The company's board appointed Chairman Lonnie Ken Pilgrim as interim president until the court signs off on Jackson.
Shares on Wednesday morning fell 10 cents to 76 cents. The stock, which traded a year ago at $29.29, has lost nearly all of its value in the last few months. The Pittsburg, Texas-based company, saddled by debt and volatile commodity costs, filed for bankruptcy Dec. 1.
Jackson, who was president of Foster Farms' poultry division, a West Coast poultry producer, will also assume the duties of Chief Operating Officer Robert A. Wright, who also resigned Tuesday.
Pilgrim's Pride has been struggling, along with other meat makers, due to high costs for animal feed, as corn costs spiked during the ethanol boom. The effect of those costs was exacerbated by an oversupply of meat on the market and weak demand, especially from restaurants as consumers cut back on spending. Those factors have hurt meat producers' ability to raise prices and recoup those high costs.
The companies have been cutting production, but that hasn't helped pricing yet.
Pilgrim's Pride also staggered under a heavy debt load. The company spent $1.3 billion to acquire rival Gold Kist Inc. in 2007 in a move to become the nation's largest chicken producer.