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Supervalu announced yesterday that that Bill Shaner, a 27-year company veteran who has been running its Save-A-Lot division since 2006, is leaving the company, to be replaced by Santiago Roces, most recently a senior vice president and general manager at Walmart.

Roces also worked for Walmart as senior vice president of new business development and customer experience, president/CEO of Wal-Mart Korea, and chief merchandising officer of Wal-Mart Argentina.

Craig Herkert, the Supervalu CEO, also is a former Walmart executive.

The move is replete with irony, since presumably Shaner’s Save-A-Lot efforts were sufficient to lead Herkert to say that he wanted to build much of Supervalu’s turnaround process around the division, which combines low prices, limited assortments and mostly private label products. There are some 1,200 Save-A-Lot stores currently, and the company has said it wants to double that number in the next few years.

Shaner has not commented on the situation. Supervalu only said that it appreciated Shaner’s work and that he was moving on to other opportunities.
KC's View:
From what I’ve been told, shock waves rippled through Supervalu yesterday when this announcement was made ... and there reportedly is a fairly severe morale problem that Herkert and Roces now have to grapple with.

Nobody I know is buying the “he’s leaving to pursue other opportunities” line. The feeling is that for some reason, Herkert and Shaner simply did not see eye-to-eye on Save-A-Lot’s strategy; one bit of speculation is that Shaner resisted Herkert’s desire to raise prices so that he could improve margins and, as a result, the division’s contribution to the bottom line.

I’m also not sure that Walmart’s grocery store performance to this point has been so strong that it would be the best breeding ground for grocery industry executives.

I’m also wondering how come Walmart did not have a non-compete clause in place with Roces; that seems curious, at least.

There is a lot of chatter that Herkert, faced with a ticking clock on his stewardship of Supervalu,, is making desperation moves ... and that this could end up being the one that sinks him.

Finally, I can tell you this. In conversations I have had with a wide range of people about Supervalu’s current situation, the name that often comes up is “Fleming.” There are a lot of people out there who believe that Herkert is driving Supervalu off the same cliff that Mark Hansen drove Fleming. (In fact, have we ever seen Herkert and Hansen together? Coincidence? I think not...)