Supervalu CFO Resigns Amid Grocery Woes

By Heather Haddon and Ali Stratton Features Dow Jones Newswires

Retail and wholesale food-seller Supervalu Inc.'s chief financial officer is resigning, the third executive to step down this week amid turmoil in the grocery industry.

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Bruce Besanko, who was also the Minnesota-based grocer's chief operating officer, will step down July 5 "to pursue an opportunity outside the company," Supervalu said.

The grocery industry is struggling with increased competition and prolonged food-price deflation that has eaten into company margins. Last week, the chief executive of Southeastern Grocers LLC, Ian McLeod, said he was leaving the chain for Hong Kong-based retailer Dairy Farm International Holdings Ltd. The next day, the CEO of Fresh Market, Rick Anicetti, said he was resigning without explanation.

Supervalu has struggled with a sharp decline in sales in its retail stores, prompting the grocer to focus more on its wholesale business. The company's stock has fallen by 30% in the past year to around $2.96 on Monday.

Last week, the company completed its acquisition of Unified Grocers for $390 million to further bolster its wholesale business.

Supervalu said its wholesale margin in its fiscal fourth quarter rose to 3.6% from 2.9%, while its retail margins shrank to 1.3% from 2.7%.

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Supervalu Chief Executive Mark Gross said Monday that Mr. Besanko made improvements to the company's capital structure that "have laid groundwork for transformation." Earlier this month, Supervalu said it plans to overhaul its technology infrastructure in a move to strengthen its operations.

Supervalu has shrunk its network of grocery stores from about 1,500 in 2012 to around 220. The company announced a deal in October to sell its Save-A-Lot chain to private-equity firm Onex Corp.

Amid their own struggles, discounters like Supervalu have also posed challenges to traditional grocers, who in turn have cut prices to compete at the lower-end of the market.

The chief strategy officer for Supervalu's wholesale business, Rob Woseth, will become interim CFO. The unit's controller, David Johnson, will be interim chief accounting officer. The company said it has begun a search for Mr. Besanko's successor.

Write to Heather Haddon at heather.haddon@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

June 26, 2017 12:16 ET (16:16 GMT)