Case Detail

Case Summary

Sara Lee: A Tale of Another Turnaround

Case Number: 5-108-009, Year Published: 2008

HBS Number: KEL353

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Authors: Loredana Yamada

Key Concepts

Turnaround, Transformation, Early Stage Turnaround, Warning Signs of Decline, Overexpansion, Evaluation of a Turnaround Plan


Sara Lee Corporation's acquisition binge in the 1980s and 1990s left the company with a portfolio of vastly different businesses operating independently of one another. It had experienced rapid top-line growth, but at the same time cash flows had declined. Sara Lee ignored both internal and external warning signs until a major transformation plan became necessary. This case examines the company's multiple turnaround attempts. The learning objective of the case is to analyze "early stage" turnaround efforts by examining how the company found itself in decline, evaluating its attempts to improve its performance, and assessing the turnaround plan.

Number of Pages: 22

Extended Case Information

Teaching Areas: Entrepreneurship, Management, Marketing, Operations, Strategy

Teaching Note Available: Yes

Geographic: International

Industry: Consumer Products

Organization Name: Sara Lee Corporation

Organization Department: Corporate

Organization Size: Large

Decision Maker Position: CEO

Decision Maker Gender: Female

Year of Case: 2005