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Amanda Gerut

Tyson Foods heir suspended on DWI charges 2 years after he went to sleep in the wrong house: ‘This may be the end of the line’

John Tyson (Credit: Leigh Vogel—Getty Images for Concordia Summit)

The chief financial officer of $19 billion Tyson Foods has been suspended from work hours after local police in Arkansas arrested the executive for allegedly driving while intoxicated.

According to police records, John R. Tyson was booked around 1:30 a.m. on Thursday. Tyson posted bond, and law enforcement released him nine hours later after charging him with driving while intoxicated, careless driving, and making an improper turn. The charges are the Tyson scion’s second-known scrape with the law. Just months after he was appointed to the CFO role in 2022, Tyson was found asleep in a stranger’s bed in her Fayetteville, Ark., home. Police said the woman resident did not know Tyson. The CFO was arrested for public intoxication and criminal trespass after the incident; he later apologized to employees in an email and said he would get counseling for his drinking.

Tyson is the son of board chairman John H. Tyson and the great-grandson of the company’s founder, making him a fourth-generation member of the Tyson family. His aunt, Barbara Tyson, serves as a board member.

In a statement on its website on Thursday, the company said it was “aware” that Tyson had been arrested for an alleged DWI and that it had suspended him effective immediately. Tyson named Curt Calaway as interim CFO in his stead. Tyson himself called his prior conduct embarrassing and told employees that the mistake was a serious one that prompted him to “reflect on the impact my actions can have on others.”

“This may be the end of the line for Mr. Tyson,” warned Georgetown University assistant professor Jason Schloetzer, an expert in corporate governance. It would be reasonable for Tyson’s leave to extend into a longer period of time, and if he returns to the company, it might be in a lower-profile role, Schloetzer told Fortune

“Large firms tend to seek market-facing executives who bring stability and confidence to the company,” he said. “This second incident, if true, can significantly harm that confidence.”

Tyson Foods, whose brands include Jimmy Dean, Hillshire Farm, and Ball Park, was founded in 1935 by John W. Tyson and has traditionally been shepherded by family leadership; its motto is “We feed the world like family.” The company is headquartered in Springdale, Ark., with 139,000 employees. John R. Tyson earned compensation valued at $2.9 million in 2023, according to company records.

C-suite executives of large publicly traded companies like Tyson are rarely in the news for arrests, to say nothing of incurring two sets of charges in a two-year span. Another Arkansas executive, Douglas Ramsey of vegan giant Beyond Meat, was arrested in 2022 for allegedly biting a man’s nose after a football game in Fayetteville. Ramsey previously spent 30 years at Tyson Foods before leaving for Beyond Meat. He retired in October following his September 2022 arrest. 

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