The plan, which also includes aligning its European packaged meat business and its apparel business, aims to better position the company for future long-term growth. In conjunction with the plan, the company said that it had elected a new CEO, Brenda Barnes, who would be heading up the strategic plan.
The plan gives the company a new business structure divided into three groups: North American Retail, North American Foodservice and Sara Lee International, effective from 3 July 2005.
The re-organisation will mean that the company's North American operations will be headquartered in one location - to be decided - while its European offices will be headquartered in Utrecht, Netherlands.
The move will also include the sale and spin-off of its European apparel business as well as its direct selling business, which currently generates sales of $450 million a year for apparel, cosmetic and household products. The direct sales business will then become a network of independent sales people operating in markets around the world, including Mexico, Australia, the Philippines and Japan.
"Under our transformation plan, we will concentrate our financial and management resources on a smaller number of business segments where we are well-positioned for substantial growth," said Barnes.
"As a result, Sara Lee will undergo a significant portfolio change, pursuing the disposition of our businesses that do not fit with our strategic focus within food beverage or household product categories."
Sare Lee, which currently has operations in 58 countries and markets products in some 200 nations, said that it intends to use the proceeds from the sales to fund investment in its growth businesses and to strengthen its existing balance sheet.