business news in context, analysis with attitude

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports on the passing of former Kroger CEO Lyle Everingham, who passed away last week at age 94, noting that it was Everingham who in the late 80s advocated for a decision not to sell the company to KKR, bur rather restructure it and remain independent.

The Enquirer writes that "Tom Murphy, group vice president for human resources and labor relations, said the board believed it had to (consider the KKR offer) out of its obligation to shareholders. 

"At a meeting in New York, Everingham met with the board to discuss KKR's proposal. Everingham, who was usually quiet and laid-back, gave an impromptu speech, telling them that Kroger also had a responsibility to the communities it served and to the thousands upon thousands of employees. 

"'(It was a) moving, unplanned off-the-cuff speech, which absolutely turned those few board members who wanted to give it serious consideration,' Murphy said. '(It) changed everyone's mind in a matter of minutes, and it was something to witness to see him, not known for his eloquence, really change completely the direction of the board of directors.'

"Instead of selling to KKR, the board chose to implement a restructuring plan. 

"Don Dufek, former senior vice president, said the failed coup at Kroger was the first time KKR hadn't succeeded in taking over a company it wanted to acquire. Both he and Murphy attribute that success to Everingham – saying if it wasn't for his leadership, Kroger would be quite different today. "

KC's View:

In other words, Everingham believed in a kind of stakeholder-centric capitalism, not just shareholder-centric capitalism.  Remarkable, since it came at a time when there weren't a lot of CEOs taking that approach.  Maybe that has something to do with the fact that Everingham began his career at Kroger in 1946 as a stockboy - he knew a world beyond the c-suite.