GNP, the St. Cloud-based chicken producer behind the Gold’n Plump brand, will be led for the first time in its history by a CEO who’s not part of the company’s founding family.

Michael Helgeson, 62, is retiring after 21 years as GNP’s CEO and more than 40 years of working at the firm his grandfather founded in 1926. Under Helgeson’s leadership, GNP’s sales nearly tripled and are now around $400 million.

He will be replaced by Steve Jurek, 63, GNP’s current executive vice president of operations and administration. Jurek, who has been with the company since 1977, takes over as president on Nov. 3, when Helgeson retires.

While Jurek won’t have the CEO title, he will have the same level of authority and responsibility that Helgeson has had, GNP said in a statement.

Jurek will report to Jason Logsdon, CEO of southern Illinois-based Maschhoff Family Foods, which bought GNP late last year. Maschhoff, one of the nation’s largest hog producers, purchased GNP in a diversification move.

GNP has production plants in Cold Spring, Minn., Luverne, Minn. and Arcadia, Wis. It is one of the few U.S. chicken producers of any size outside of the South, the country’s main chicken-raising region.

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