Bi-Lo Holdings on Thursday announced that Ian McLeod, an international retailer with turnaround experience on two continents, has been named its president and CEO effective March 2, succeeding Randall Onstead.
McLeod is known for leading a successful turnaround effort at Coles, one of Australia’s largest food retailers. He is a former chief executive of British retailer Halford Group and has 20 years of experience at Asda, where he was director of stores. He is also a one-time board member of Wal-Mart Germany, a former CEO of renowned European soccer club Celtic; and a director of pro soccer clubs in England and Australia, reports said.
“Ian is a proven leader with more than 30 years of expertise and a strong track record of driving profitable growth,” the Bi-Lo Holdings board said in a statement. “In his time running over 2,200 Coles food, liquor and convenience stores, which employs 100,000 associates across Australia and includes over 760 full-service supermarkets, he led a major turnaround in that business, improving the quality and value of products as well as the service and store standards offered to customers.”
During his tenure at Coles, McLeod helped to increase sales from around $23.2 billion (U.S.) to $35.2 billion, and doubled profits over six years.
“We are confident he will be instrumental in driving continued growth and success at Bi-Lo Holdings as we execute our strategy and work to further enhance our customers’ shopping experience,” the board said.
Bi-Lo Holdings, which is controlled by private equity fund Lone Star Funds, was created when Bi-Lo acquired larger neighbor Winn-Dixie in 2012. That group subsequently purchased the Sweetbay, Harveys and Reid’s stores from Delhaize America and filed for an initial public offering in 2013, but shelved those plans last summer amid speculation that profits and sales were under more pressure than anticipated. Those struggles led to the departure of Onstead, as well as EVP Mark Prestidge, who left the company in December, sources said.
“The Bi-Lo, Harveys and Winn-Dixie grocery store brands have a strong history and today serve our customers through the efforts of over 70,000 hardworking employees; I am excited to move to the U.S. and join the team at this important time,” McLeod said in a statement. “I look forward to leveraging my experience to help build upon Bi-Lo Holdings’ reputation by serving our loyal customers even better, attracting new customers through great quality and value and further strengthening our competitive position within the industry.”
The appointment for the moment at least should end speculation circulating that Bi-Lo Holdings was for sale, but should not preclude the possibility the chain seeks another public offering down the road. McLeod has experience in that endeavor, having taken Halfords to public markets previously.
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