Joseph W. Luter, III has announced he plans to relinquish the title of chief executive officer of Smithfield Foods, Inc. after serving for 31 years as chairman and chief executive officer, PRNewswire reports. Smithfield''s board of directors said that Luter will step aside from the position of chief executive officer as of August 31, but will remain non-executive chairman of the board. The board has elected C. Larry Pope, currently president and chief operating officer, as chief executive officer effective September 1. After four years with an accounting firm, Pope, 51 years old, joined Smithfield Foods in 1980 as controller. He became vice president, finance, in 1999 and was named chief financial officer in 2000. The board elected him president and chief operating officer in 2001. Luter became chief executive of Smithfield in 1975 when the company was in severe economic distress, with sales of $115 million, debt of $20 million and net worth of less than $1 million. Smithfield recently reported fiscal 2006 sales of $11.4 billion and is the largest pork processor and hog producer in the world. Additionally, the company is the fifth largest beef processor and the largest cattle producer through a joint venture.