People - April 2006

New Hanes job fits Sara Lee Exec to a T
By Kathy Brown

It may not have the cachet of some of the other places he has called home — Paris, Rome and Toronto — but Winston-Salem has quickly grown on Lee Chaden, who came to the Triad with his wife two years ago. “We love it down here.” That move, like the others, happened because of work.

In this case, it’s his job as CEO of Chicago-based Sara Lee Corp.’s Branded Apparel Division, which will be spun off by September into Hanesbrands Inc., a publicly traded Fortune 500 company with headquarters in the Twin City. It has about 44,000 employees and took in $4.7 billion in revenue last year. Sara Lee wants to concentrate on its food and beverage business.

Chaden, 64 this month, will be CEO and executive chairman. He grew up in South Bend, Ind., and graduated from Purdue University in 1964 with a bachelor’s in industrial engineering. He followed that with an MBA from the University of California at Berkeley in 1966. He went to work at Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble in brand management and joined Rochester, N.Y.-based Playtex’s apparel division in 1970, largely because it promised to send him to Europe as a marketing manager. He lived in Paris and Rome. By the time he left for Toronto in 1974, he was fluent in French and Italian.

In 1979, Chaden joined Westport, Conn.-based Marketing Corporation of America as a partner. He worked for MCA spinoffs and divisions until returning to Playtex in 1991, the year Sara Lee acquired it. He became president and CEO of Sara Lee Intimates in 1994 and was promoted to CEO of Sara Lee Branded Apparel for Europe in 1999. That moved him back to Paris for two years. In 2001, Sara Lee made him senior vice president of human resources. He was appointed to his current position in 2004.

The new name comes from the company’s flagship line — Hanes. Others include Bali, L’eggs and Wonderbra. The division employs about 4,500 in the Triad. That number will go up, but Chaden won’t say by how much. While Winston-Salem is a new home for Chaden, it’s the old homeplace for Hanes. John Wesley Hanes started Shamrock Mills there in 1901 to make socks. The company changed its name to Hanes Hosiery Mills in 1914 and merged in 1965 with underwear maker P.H. Hanes Knitting Co., started by his brother, to form Hanes Corp. What is now Sara Lee acquired it in 1979.

“From a day-to-day point of view, the business won’t change much,” Chaden says. “But there’s a greater sense of ownership and excitement among the employees about this being its own company.”