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Brenda Barnes (CEO): Sara Lee

Why this quit is big: After leading Sara Lee for more than 5 years, Brenda Barnes stepped down in August to focus on her health. As of Dec 31, Marcel Smits serves as interim CEO and an unprepared board searches for a successor with the right ingredients. During her tenure, Barnes streamlined the company’s focus back to foods, divesting apparel maker Hanesbrands Inc (Hanes L’eggs, Playtex, Wonderbra, et. al) parts of the Ambi Pur air freshner business, its insecticide line, and sold the company’s European personal care product line for $1.87 billion10

Why it’s not as big as our Top 10: Despite consolidation and massive influx of capital, its shareholders have not been rewarded and sales of foodstuffs are floundering. Even with a stronger culture of accountability, Barnes’s successor will have the task of reviving stagnating sales and continue Barnes’s efforts to build revenue from packaged foods. It is a segment that continues to be strained as all processed food, and the plastic packaging it’s in, comes under fire for allegedly adverse health effects.

Gellar, Martine. “Sara Lee Ceo Barnes Steps Down Permanently”. 9 August, 2010.