JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Winn-Dixie Stores here said last week James Kufeldt has retired as president after 38 years with the company.
Kufeldt, 60, disclosed plans in early June to retire during the summer to spend more time with his family. His decision followed what the company described as "a light stroke, with no permanent damage."
According to Kufeldt, "Recent medical issues caused me to rethink my priorities, and I decided I wanted to be able to spend more time with my family."
Kufeldt had been president of Winn-Dixie for the past 11 years. The company said A. Dano Davis, chairman and principal executive officer, will assume the office and duties of the president while a search committee of the board of directors continues to seek a successor. "Mr. Davis is totally involved in the company and able to handle anything," a chain spokesman told SN.
Kufeldt had indicated in June he would remain as president until his successor was named, to smooth the transition process. "However, the search has taken longer than anticipated, and Mr. Davis felt Mr. Kufeldt had delayed his leaving long enough," the spokesman said.
He told SN there is no specific schedule for Winn-Dixie to find a permanent president. "We'd like to have it done by the end of the year, but it's a matter of finding the right person and there's no set timetable," he said.
Jonathan Ziegler, San Francisco-based securities analyst with Salomon Smith Barney, New York, said Winn-Dixie needs to take its time finding a new president. "If you want to get the company going again, you've got to take your time and not rush things," he said.
Gary Giblen, New York-based managing director of Banc of America Montgomery Securities, San Francisco, said the extended time it's taking to find a successor could be looked at two ways. "It may be that the company is moving slowly because it's a challenging job and therefore hard to find the right candidate, or it could be that the company is thinking of selling -- despite its statements to the contrary -- and it may feel it's not important to hire a new person if the ownership is about to change."
Winn-Dixie said last month it is not negotiating for the sale of the company, despite rumors to the contrary. The chain has been considered a potential acquisition candidate because of what some observers have termed inconsistent financial results.
Kufeldt joined Winn-Dixie in September 1961 as produce manager at a store in Miami, eventually becoming a produce buyer and later produce merchandiser in the chain's Tampa, Fla., division in the early 1970s.
He was named manager of the Orlando, Fla., division in 1978; regional vice president in 1979; regional director of Orlando, Jacksonville and Atlanta in 1982; senior vice president in 1986, and director of retail information and planning later the same year. He was named Winn-Dixie president and chairman of the executive committee in 1988.