Ian McLeod, the high-profile international retailing executive imported to turn around Southeastern Grocers, is leaving the company effective June 30 to pursue another opportunity, the company said Monday.
Anthony Hucker, Southeastern’s COO, will assume the responsibilities of president and CEO on an interim basis while the Jacksonville, Fla.-based retailer seeks a replacement. Southeastern operates the Bi-Lo, Winn-Dixie and Harveys banners.
Southeastern in a statement said it made “substantial progress on our transformation plan and established great momentum,” under McLeod.
Southeastern took the industry by surprise when it appointed McLeod in early 2015 to succeed Randall Onstead as CEO. Southeastern had recently called off a planned IPO and was said to be an acquisition target at the time. Instead, McLeod led an ambitious series of moves intended to turn around the beleaguered company, meeting with what observers called mixed success.
McLeod, a Scotland native, had previously executed a turnaround at Australia’s Coles chain. Under McLeod, Southeastern made a series of deep price investments, debuted a high-service, food-focused format for Winn-Dixie at two locations, and transformed 18 Winn-Dixies in South Florida to a new Hispanic banner, Fresco Y Mas. Southeastern’s rural Harveys banner was remade behind a price format and expanded to certain locations of Bi-Lo and Winn-Dixie where demographics indicated a price format would work.
At the same time progress overall remained slow as price deflation and hot competition in the Southeast kept the company from the growth it might otherwise have expected, a source said. Southeastern acknowledged it was closing 20 stores last month and had reconfigured management responsibilities at some stores, resulting in some layoffs. Sales in 2016 declined by more than 7%, while same-store sales for the year were down by 3.6%.
"It has been a difficult decision to leave my role as president and CEO of Southeastern Grocers, but I believe the new position will be a positive opportunity for me and in the best interests my family," McLeod said in a statement. "I want to thank our thousands of loyal and dedicated associates – it's your hard work and dedication that has helped set this company on a path to an even brighter future. I have tremendous confidence in Anthony and the rest of the leadership team and I know that I'm leaving Southeastern Grocers in good hands."
A source at Southeastern said Monday that Anna Kelly, VP of corporate and consumer affairs at Southeastern, would also be leaving the company June 30.
Hucker has more than 18 years of experience in leadership roles across the industry including serving previously as president and COO of Schnucks, president of Ahold’s Giant/Martin’s chain and head of Wal-Mart Stores’ strategy and business development division. Hucker also spent 10 years with the startup team of Aldi in the United Kingdom.
“We are pleased that Anthony Hucker will be stepping in as president and CEO on an interim basis," the company said in a statement. "As COO, Anthony has a strong familiarity with our business, our stakeholders, our challenges and opportunities, and the strategic direction of the company.”