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Supervalu announced yesterday that Mark Gross, former co-president at C&S Wholesale Grocers, as its new president/CEO. He succeeds Sam Duncan, who is retiring at the end of the month.

The Star Tribune reports that since leaving C&S a decade ago, Gross has run Surry Investment Advisors, "which focuses on consulting for the grocery industry, notably on mergers and acquisitions." Indeed, most of the coverage of Gross's hiring notes that he is a mergers-and-acquisitions specialist, leading to reasonable speculation that he has been hired to make some major strategic moves.

"I am thrilled to join Supervalu," Gross said in a prepared statement. "I am delighted to have the opportunity to help take the Company to the next level and to work with the Board and management team to set the strategic path for the future. I look forward to working with our great customers and the talented group of employees in this Company, including working with Eric Claus as Supervalu continues to explore and prepare for a potential spin-off of Save-A-Lot."

The Star Tribune writes that Supervalu "was listing badly when Duncan took over and has been in a turnaround mode under his tenure. While Duncan made progress, Gross is taking the reins at a company that seems to have stalled in recent months. And he's assuming command at a time when the already contentious grocery industry is getting more competitive ... Gross' background should come in handy as Supervalu prepares to spin off its Save-A-Lot chain into a separate publicly traded company - or for that matter if Supervalu itself ends up on the sales block."
KC's View:
I'm a big fan of the idea that merchants ought to be running companies like Supervalu, and that when you hire someone from the financial side, or someone with M&A expertise, it suggests something about where the company is going.