Lee Delaney, president and CEO of BJ’s Wholesale Club died unexpectedly yesterday at age 49.
Westborough, Mass.-based BJ’s said Friday that Delaney’s death was “due to presumed natural causes.” He had served as president and CEO since Feb. 2, 2019, taking over from Christopher Baldwin, who became executive chairman.
Robert Eddy (left), executive vice president and chief administrative and financial officer, has been named as interim CEO by the BJ’s board of directors, effective immediately.
“We are shocked and profoundly saddened by the passing of Lee Delaney,” Baldwin said in a statement Friday on behalf of the BJ’s board. “Lee was a brilliant and humble leader who cared deeply for his colleagues, his family and his community. We extend our most heartfelt condolences and sympathy to his family, especially his wife and two children. We will honor his legacy and remember the extraordinary impact he had on so many. Our thoughts are with them during this difficult time.”
Before his ascension to the CEO posted, Delaney had appeared on track to become Baldwin’s successor. He was promoted to president in September 2019, taking that title from Baldwin. Previously, Delaney served as executive vice president and chief commercial officer, a role he held since February 2018. He joined BJ’s in May 2016 as executive vice president and chief growth officer. Before coming to the wholesale club retailer, Delaney was a partner at the Boston office of Bain & Co., where he was a leader in the firm’s consumer products practice, and prior to that he worked for Electronic Data Systems and Deloitte Consulting.
Eddy joined BJ’s as senior vice president and director of finance in July 2007 and was promoted to executive vice president and CFO in January 2011. He added the title of chief administrative officer in January 2018.
“Bob partnered closely with Lee and has played an integral role in transforming and growing BJ’s Wholesale Club,” according to Baldwin. “We have the utmost confidence in Bob’s leadership and his deep knowledge of the business. We expect to announce permanent changes to our leadership within a reasonably short timeframe, aided by our prior succession planning.”
Overall, BJ’s Wholesale Club operates 221 warehouse club stores and 151 BJ’s Gas stations in 17 states.
Delaney made a notable impact in BJ’s structural improvements, according to Jefferies analyst Stephanie Wissink.
“He was a key figure in the transformation of BJ’s and the company’s return to the public markets. Through his talent appointments and strategic initiatives, we believe he positioned BJ’s well for a multi-year period of sustained top-line and margin expansion driven by new member adds, improved assortment and a return to unit growth,” she wrote in a research note released Friday.
This afternoon, Eddy and Baldwin hosted a brief call for the investor community to reiterate that the board had a contingency plan in place for such an event, “although we recognize having to use it comes with deep grief,” Wissink noted.
“The company plans to announce permanent changes to leadership ‘shortly/very soon,’ aided by prior succession planning,” she said. “The company’s immediate interim appointments, with the expedited announcement of permanent succession, signal to us that the company had a solid backup plan in place. The balance of leadership has long tenure at BJ’s and, therefore, we assume stable business continuity.”