CEO Shakeup at New Safeway-Albertsons Retail Chain

PLEASANTON, Calif. (San Jose Mercury News/TNS) -

In a shakeup that suggests Albertsons is putting its stamp on the supermarket chain that emerged from its merger with Safeway, the parent company of the new grocery conglomerate announced Friday that retailing veteran Robert Miller would take over the post of chief executive of the store company.

Miller becomes CEO of Albertsons, New Albertsons and Safeway, said AB Acquisition, the parent company of the three retail organizations. Miller takes over the CEO post of the merged retail giant from Robert Edwards, who had been chief executive of Safeway before the merger, which was completed at the end of January.

“As CEO of Safeway, Robert Edwards made tough decisions that led to significant improvements in Safeway’s shareholder value and positioning the company for the future,” Miller said in a prepared release. Miller had been CEO of Albertsons from 2006 until the time of the merger. Before that, Miller was CEO of grocer Fred Meyer and chief operating officer of grocer Kroger.

Edwards will become vice chairman of the company and provide advice to the board of directors and the organization on key strategic and integration matters. Miller will retain his post as executive chairman. Albertsons also created a new Office of the CEO to oversee day-to-day operations.

Pleasanton-based Safeway sold itself Jan. 30 to Idaho-based Albertsons in a $9.2 billion deal that created a privately held company out of the combination of the retail chains. The new supermarket group operates 2,230 grocery stores in 34 states and Washington, D.C.

“Albertsons will want to put their own people in charge, because it was the Albertsons group that bought Safeway,” said David Livingston, a Milwaukee-based retail analyst. “You can only have one company in charge. You have one company buying the other.”

“This combination of supermarket chains isn’t going to lead to a better way to sell groceries, or an improvement in sales,” Livingston said. “What you will really see is improved economies of scale. Sales will continue to decline, but the new company is hoping that it can cut expenses and overhead at an even faster rate.”

So far, the transaction hasn’t led to any major layoffs or store closings, although rank-and-file store clerks and butchers have noticed some operational changes, said Mike Henneberry, spokesman for United Food & Commercial Workers Local 5, which represents unionized supermarket workers in the Bay Area.

“They are doing some production and operational things differently,” Henneberry said. “You also are seeing some new brands here and there, such as new brands of meat or frozen meat. But not a lot that the customer would notice as yet.”