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Supervalu Inc. said yesterday that Duncan McNaughton, 47, its executive vice president of merchandising and marketing, has resigned from the company, effective immediately.

While the initial press release did not give a reason for the resignation, in his letter to associates CEO Craig Herkert said that it was for “an opportunity with Walmart Canada.” The actual Walmart job was not specified.

In his message to associates, Herkert said, “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.” Until a successor is identified – both internal and external candidates reportedly will be considered – Herkert will oversee the company’s marketing and merchandising functions.

In less than three months, Herkert has engineered the departures of president/COO Mike Jackson and the president of the company’s Midwest Retail Division, Kevin Tripp, both of whom are 55. In addition, Shaws’ president, Larry Wahlstrom, announced his retirement and was succeeded by Mike Witynski, who had been serving as group vice president of Our Own Brands, a Supervalu unit.
KC's View:
McNaughton may have resigned to take another job, but that doesn’t mean he wasn't nudged, that it wasn't made clear that it was time to go. (Sort of like how Michael Corleone tells Moe Greene that it is time to go in “The Godfather.” Unlike Moe, McNaughton listened. Maybe it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.)

What this means is that Herkert is remaking the company on both the retail and wholesale sides, reshaping it in his own image…or at least, in the image that he believes will make it viable and more successful in the long run. (The question is, how many senior executives still there from the Jeff Noddle days have their resumes ready and in circulation, believing that their history with the company is their most vulnerable attribute?)

If he’s successful, Herkert will be a hero. But if these machinations and manipulations don't work, one has to wonder what will be left of Supervalu’s tradition and history for his successor to revive.