DELAFIELD, Wis. -- Funeral services were scheduled here over the weekend for Roger E. Stangeland, former chairman and chief executive officer of Vons Grocery Co. and later of Grand Union and a former chairman of the Food Marketing Institute, whom colleagues described as an astute entrepreneur who was more concerned with the team than any one individual.
Stangeland, 74, died Feb. 27 of heart failure at his home in Arcadia, Calif. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Lilah; two sons, a daughter, two grandsons and two granddaughters.
Stangeland was a major figure in Southern California grocery retailing as head of Vons from 1982 until 1994 -- a period during which Vons became the sales and market-share leader in the region.
He was instrumental in establishing Vons as an independent entity by leading a leveraged buyout of the company from Household Merchandising in 1985; in addition, Stangeland played a principal role at Vons in developing its upscale Pavilions format, which was successful; a Hispanic-oriented format called Tianguis, which was not; and the chain's original loyalty card program.
Stangeland retired from Vons in 1994 but rejoined the industry the following year when he signed a two-year contract to serve as chairman of Grand Union, Wayne, N.J., following the company's emergence from a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He stepped down as chairman in 1997.
During his industry career, Stangeland was active in various trade activities, including serving as chairman of FMI from 1993 to 1995. In 1998, he received the Sydney R. Rabb Award, FMI's highest honor.
In interviews with SN last week, colleagues remembered Stangeland's intelligence, his culinary skills and his concern for the industry as a whole.
Byron Allumbaugh, retired chairman of Ralphs Grocery Co., competed with Stangeland in Southern California but also worked with him on industry projects at FMI and elsewhere. "He came across almost as shy, but there was a lot going on in his mind," Allumbaugh said. "As a competitor he was tough but honorable, which is the kind you like, and as an industry leader, he was a very smart man who brought a good perspective to any business situation."
Allumbaugh noted that Stangeland was head of the committee that selected Tim Hammonds to succeed Robert O. Aders as FMI president in 1993.
Hammonds said Stangeland was instrumental in developing the strategy FMI still follows in terms of how the association is organized and how it views the future. "Roger had a true vision for the industry and was passionate, not just about his company but about the industry itself, and he spent a lot of time and effort seeking ways to help the industry as a whole. He was also tremendously influential by the force of his personality and persuasiveness, and he had a kind of passion for everything he did."
Aders told SN Stangeland "took great pains to create a seamless leadership transition" when Hammonds succeeded him at FMI. He also recalled that Stangeland was always most concerned with the success of the team. "That was part of his fundamental attitude -- that it wasn't about himself but about the team with which he was working."
Jack Brown, chairman, president and CEO of Stater Bros. Markets, Colton, Calif., preceded Stangeland as vice chairman, finance, of FMI. "He was a fine gentleman -- very quiet, very unassuming, but a tremendous entrepreneur," Brown said. "He was also probably one of the smartest people I ever met. He had a quick mind, but he always used it to build something positive, not to take advantage of any situation."
Brown also recalled that Stangeland loved to entertain. "Roger was quite a gourmet, and he loved hosting barbecues at his home and doing all the cooking himself," he said.
When Stangeland joined Grand Union in 1995 following its emergence from its second Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Stangeland invested $1 million of his own money as a vote of confidence, Brown added.
Bill Kagler, former president of Kroger Co. who served as a Grand Union director, said Stangeland was one of the best executives he ever worked with. "He was a great leader who understood the business and was able to think strategically, but he also had the ability to handle the daily details of running a business," he said.
Stangeland helped develop a plan for Grand Union's recovery from Chapter 11 that concentrated on remodels, Kagler added, "and sales were up in the test stores, and if the new executives who came in had followed his plan, Grand Union would still be in business today," Kagler said.