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Belgium-based Delhaize Group announced this morning that Pierre-Olivier Beckers, president/CEO of the company, will retire before the end of the year, pending the naming of a successor. According to the announcement, Beckers will remain a non-executive director of the company even after his retirement.

In the US, Delhaize owns the Food Lion, Hannaford Supermarkets and Sweetbay chains.

Delhaize said that both internal and external candidates are being considered.

Beckers joined the company in 1983, has been a director since 1995 and was appointed President and CEO in January 1999. In the official announcement, Delhaize describes his tenure this way:

"In almost 15 years as CEO he has led Delhaize Group during a period of fast change in the global food retail environment. Under Mr Beckers' leadership, Delhaize transformed itself from a Belgian company with an international presence to an integrated group sharing the same vision and values. Since 1999, the number of stores has grown from 1,904 to 3,411 in ten countries on three continents, revenues grew from EUR12.9 to EUR22.6 billion. More recently, Delhaize Group has increased its growth profile with 30.7 % of the stores now located in growth markets, generating 14 % of the group's revenues compared to less than 5% when Mr Beckers took office."
KC's View:

My first thought when reading about Beckers' retirement was that he's way too young to be retiring - he's nine years younger than I am. (And, by the way, from my experience, an utter gentleman.)

I have no credible internal intelligence to suggest that this retirement is anything other than voluntary, and certainly he's been doing the job for a long time. Plus, his stated attitude about wanting to make sure that the company is well-served by a succession plan seems admirable, especially since I've been critical of other companies for not doing this.

That said, it has been challenging times for Delhaize, especially in the US, where there has been some turmoil and changes in leadership.

I'm working under the assumption that Beckers may be retiring from Delhaize, but he's not just going off to play golf and serve on some boards. I don't know him well, but he seems like a young 50, with tons of vitality and intellectual energy. So maybe he just figures it is time to do something different.

I would point out that the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) is looking for a new managing director to replace the unmitigated disaster that they had to fire. Beckers always has been a highly engaged member of the CGF/CIES board, and maybe this would be interesting to him - taking a industry-wide and strategic role in an organization that can use mature and experienced leadership from someone who isn't a diva.