BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Following shareholder approval of the merger of Bruno's here into Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts, the chain named William J. Bolton, a veteran American Stores Co. executive, as its new chairman and chief executive officer last week.
Bruno's has now cleared the final hurdle in its joining with KKR and has put its top leadership in place as it goes private. Now, Bolton, in his new role, must turn his attentions toward aggressively remodeling Bruno's store base, enhancing its service levels and pursuing new growth opportunities -- possibly through the acquisition of another regional operator in the Southeast, according to observers.
Bolton, 49, succeeds Ronald G. Bruno, 43, who will remain a member of Bruno's board of directors but will leave the company
that his family founded 63 years ago once the transition to the new management has been completed. He is one of five top-level executives set to retire, the company told SN. Bolton, who had been general manager of American's subsidiary, 187-unit Jewel Food Stores, Melrose Park, Ill., since 1991, gave up that title in March when he became corporate chief operating officer of markets, in charge of American's capital growth plans.
His appointment came three days after Bruno's shareholders approved the merger with Crimson Acquisition Corp., a subsidiary of New York-based KKR that was formed to consummate the merger. Besides taking over Ron Bruno's titles, Bolton will also assume the responsibilities of president currently held by Paul Garrison, president and chief operating officer; however, Bolton will not carry either of Garrison's titles, chain officials said. Along with Ron Bruno and Garrison, the other executives who will retire upon completion of the management transition are Glenn Griffin, chief financial officer; Ken Bruno, executive vice president of corporate planning and development, and Michael Conley, corporate counsel. The only one certain to have a successor is Griffin, the company indicated.
Taking over for Bolton at American will be Kent T. Anderson, former head of real estate operations until he was named chief strategy officer earlier this year. Bruno's operates 252 stores in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee. Sales for the year ended in July were $2.8 billion. In a statement, Bolton said, "Bruno's has a strong tradition of customer service. Our Southeastern markets are very attractive areas for growth, [and] the potential for a company with such a solid foundation is exciting."
According to Gary Giblen, managing director of Smith Barney, New York, Bolton is "a solid executive who's run a company comparable in size to Bruno's, with the kind of operating experience at the regional level that Bruno's was looking for." Giblen said he believed Bolton left American "because he probably wanted to run his own show, and with Vic Lund [American's chairman] being so young, he didn't see much opportunity for advancement there." Under the merger plan, 73.3 million of the company's 77.5 million shares will be converted into $12 per share in cash; the remaining 4.2 million common shares will be retained by Bruno's existing shareholders. Because Bruno's will operate as a private company, trading on Nasdaq has been terminated.