Fonterra has appointed Miles Hurrell as the co-operative's interim chief executive with immediate effect.
Mr Hurrell, who has been with the company since 2000, is currently Fonterra's chief operating officer of its farm source unit, which is responsible for working directly with its roughly 10,500 farmer-owners.
He replaces Theo Spiering, who will stay on until the beginning of September to help with the transition of leadership.
Fonterra's chairman, John Monaghan, who himself took over only last month, said it was not best practice to have the chairman and CEO stand down at the same time, but events have overtaken that decision.
"I have agreed with the Board that we will stop the global CEO search while we review the co-operative's current portfolio and direction."
"It's important that we give ourselves the time to take stock of where we are as a co-operative, breathe some fresh air into the business, then determine any changes that are needed," Mr Monaghan said.
"Appointing a new CEO is the most critical decision a Board will make. We will take all the time we need to find the right person.
Mr Monaghan said in the meantime, Fonterra needed a new leader than could hit the ground running and Mr Hurrell had the experience, intellect and commitment to do that.
Fonterra has faced criticism about not disclosing theillness of the former chairman, John Wilson, as well as it financial performance.
On Monday, the dairy processor and exporter dropped its forecast payout to farmers and said it was unlikely to pay a final dividend because of pressure on its earnings margins.