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The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P) announced Friday that CEO Sam Martin has left the company, after more than there years in the role.

Martin has been succeeded on an interim basis by Gregory Mays, executive chairman of the company, while a search is conducted for a replacement.

Martin, the former COO of Whole Foods, joined the company in July 2010, when Ron Marshall, the former Nash Finch CEO who was dismissed after just seven months at the helm. Marshall replaced Eric Claus, who had been brought down from A&P’s Canadian operations in 2005 and was fired without apparent warning in 2009.

A&P would not comment on the departure, other than to say that "Sam Martin has departed as the company's CEO. We all thank Sam for his time at A&P and wish him well in his future endeavors."

Martin helped guide A&P through its emergence from bankruptcy. At the time, Martin released a statement saying, in part, “We have completed a thorough restructuring of A&P’s cost structure and balance sheet to build a strong foundation for the company’s future."

But after years of sales declines and heightened competition, Martin's A&P was unable to make any sort of real headway. And now he is gone, and A&P is in the market for a new CEO. Again.
KC's View:
Last May, I wrote a column about an appearance that Martin made at the annual conference run by Portland State University's Center for Retail Leadership, which, if you're interested, you can read here.

Well, it didn't take long this weekend for me to get emails challenging me for having written the piece and questioning my insights.

To be honest, the first thing I thought of when Martin resigned was that column, and I went back to read it to see how wrong I'd been. Nothing would have surprised me; I've been doing this for a long time, and so I'm sort of used to being wrong. (Plus, I've been married for 30+ years, and that only happens when one is willing to accept the fact of one's missteps.)

In this case, I think that the column properly painted a fairly bleak picture of the situation at A&P, suggesting that while Martin seemed to understand the cultural changes that needed to take place, that wouldn't be enough to make the company competitive again. Did I think Martin was saying the right things? Sure. But I don't think I was overly optimistic about his chances.

Also … to those people who I think I was writing while wearing rose-colored glasses … I think that is an opinion that would not be shared by anyone who has been reading MNB for any length of time. I am, after all, the person who once wrote when a rumor emerged that A&P was considering an acquisition, "Can you imagine anything worse than coming to work and finding out your company had been acquired by A&P?"