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Swine are a tough business. Just ask Richard Poulson, the chief lawyer at Smithfield Foods Inc., the world’s largest pig farmer and pork producer. Whether it’s dealing with slumping hog prices, litigious environmentalists, or spurned merger overtures, the job keeps Poulson on his toes. The attorney, whose official title is “senior adviser” to company chairman Joseph Luter III, maintains an unusually public profile. This spring Poulson penned Smithfield’s formal offer, which had been rebuffed at press time, for North America’s largest farmer-owned, now-bankrupt cooperative, Farmland Industries Inc. He’s publicly blasted “craven” lawyers like Robert Kennedy, Jr., whose Waterkeeper Alliance unsuccessfully sued Virginia-based Smithfield and other hog producers in 2000 for polluting waters in North Carolina and other locales. And when Smithfield offered $50 million for the naming rights to a proposed stadium in neighboring Norfolk, Va., Poulson acted as the company’s official emissary. Poulson, 63, came to Smithfield five years ago via the Appian Group, a private merchant bank where he served as a senior managing director. Before that he was a partner in Washington, D.C.’s Hogan & Hartson. He’s paid handsomely for his varied work, pocketing $1.3 million in cash compensation last year, more than double his 1999 take-home pay. In one key respect, Poulson’s income is hogtied: In 2001, he held $506,500 worth of unexercisable options and was given 50,000 more, which, at press time, were under water. Yet, for all his public posturing, Poulson appears to be stepping away from the spotlight. In declining an interview request, a Smithfield spokesman suggested that Poulson has taken heat for his public persona. The attorney’s job is to advise the chairman; sometimes, says the rep, Poulson “feels he’s upstaging [Luter].”

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