Acme parent Supervalu once again replaces CEO

Posted: July 30, 2012

Embattled Acme Markets owner Supervalu Inc. announced Monday its third chief executive in three years, booting onetime Walmart executive Craig R. Herkert and replacing him with board chairman Wayne C. Sales.

The action was taken Sunday by the $36 billion corporation, which has struggled with $6 billion in debt as its mostly traditional supermarket chains have been battered by lower-cost warehouse clubs, dollar stores, and big-box retailers since the stock market crash of 2008.

The leadership change, the second since Jeffrey Noddle was replaced as CEO in May 2009, comes two weeks after Herkert announced that Supervalu would explore the potential sale of some or all of the company, and as shareholders were yet again disappointed with declining sales numbers and profitability. The declines have been going on for years. Shares closed Monday at $2.24.

Sales, 62, a member of the Supervalu board since 2006, was vice chairman of Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. prior to that. At Supervalu, he will oversee Acme and discount grocer Save-A-Lot, plus Jewel-Osco in Chicago among others in the company's portfolio. Supervalu also runs a wholesale grocery-distribution business.

Across the Philadelphia region, Acme has shut stores, laid off hundreds of unionized clerks over the last year and a half, and embarked on far fewer renovations and store upgrades than its competitors, all while trying to lower its prices, which are considered high.

In a letter to employees, Sales underscored the company's desire to keep slashing costs: "We must implement initiatives that take cost out of our business faster than we make our price investments."


Contact Maria Panaritis at 215-854-2431 or mpanaritis@phillynews.com or @panaritism on Twitter.

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