MINNEAPOLIS — Supervalu here last week lost one of its top executives when Duncan Mac Naughton resigned to accept a job as chief merchandising officer with Wal-Mart Canada.
Although several other top leaders had recently left the company after the hiring in May of Chief Executive Officer Craig Herkert — who himself came from the international division of Wal-Mart Stores — Mac Naughton's departure surprised some observers because Herkert had recently given him additional responsibility overseeing the company's pharmacy operations.
“He was prepared to see things through under Craig Herkert, but he has a good reputation and was probably highly sought after,” said one industry source, who asked not to be identified.
Mac Naughton, whose title at Supervalu was executive vice president, merchandising and marketing, had been working on the process of centralizing those functions among the company's disparate banners and brands.
In a letter to employees obtained by SN, Herkert said Supervalu was conducting a search for both internal and external candidates to fill the position. In the meantime, he said, merchandising and pharmacy will report to Ed Hanson, and marketing will continue to report to Steve Michaelson, both of whom report directly to Herkert.
“All current business initiatives will continue as planned,” he said in the letter. “While Duncan has been an integral member of Supervalu's leadership team, our success will ultimately be determined by the collective talents in the company. For that reason I remain as optimistic as ever about our future.
“We have powerful merchandising and marketing teams that have transformed Supervalu's ability to balance national scale with the flexibility to serve local market preferences.”
He cited several examples of progress the company has made, including the renegotiation of key contracts to provide “multi-million-dollar savings”; the reduction of warehouse inventory, which has also saved millions; and improving overall customer satisfaction scores at the majority of the company's businesses.
Mac Naughton had spent 13 years with Kraft Foods before joining H.E. Butt Grocery Co., San Antonio, where he held several different positions during a six-year stint. He joined Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons in 2003, and was tapped to lead Supervalu's overall merchandising and marketing functions when that company acquired most of the Albertsons assets in 2006.
Jose Tamez, managing partner of the Denver office of executive search firm Austin-Michael, told SN last week that he expected Supervalu to seek out an executive with experience at a nationwide retailer who is “very well capable of making aggressive changes” that are being implemented at the company.