Succession Cloudy at Winn-Dixie

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The resignation earlier this month of Dan Portnoy from Winn-Dixie Stores could have long-term implications for the management hierarchy there. Industry sources told SN Portnoy was hired with the understanding he would eventually succeed Peter Lynch as Winn-Dixie president and chief executive officer when Lynch was ready to step aside. With Portnoy's departure, the line of succession

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The resignation earlier this month of Dan Portnoy from Winn-Dixie Stores [4] could have long-term implications for the management hierarchy there.

Industry sources told SN Portnoy was hired with the understanding he would eventually succeed Peter Lynch as Winn-Dixie president and chief executive officer when Lynch was ready to step aside. With Portnoy's departure, the line of succession is less clear.

Portnoy was senior vice president and chief merchandising and marketing officer for the 484-store chain. A former president and CEO of Kings Super Markets, based in Parsippany, N.J., Portnoy joined Winn-Dixie in mid-2007 to help it get back on its feet following its emergence from Chapter 11.

During his tenure, Portnoy was involved with helping the chain improve its image with consumers and vendors. When Portnoy left the company two weeks ago, his responsibilities for overseeing marketing, pricing, perishables, non-perishables and pharmacy were divided among four executives.

Portnoy could not be reached for comment last week.

Commenting on why Portnoy left Winn-Dixie, one industry analyst said, “Lynch is a very hands-on executive — and given the fact Winn-Dixie has not turned things around as quickly as the company had once thought, it's very possible Portnoy got tired of waiting for Peter to step aside.”

Another industry observer told SN that Portnoy “never really fit in” at Winn-Dixie.

“As they started to add people to their senior management team with strong personalities and business acumen, it appeared he was being circled by sharks.”

His decision to leave “was not a surprise,” the observer added. “And Peter Lynch is not going anywhere anytime soon, at least within the next year.”

Meredith Adler, an analyst with Barclays Capital, New York, told SN Portnoy's decision to leave Winn-Dixie was based solely on personal considerations. “Dan's family never moved to Florida, and he was ready to go back to New Jersey,” she explained.