COMPTON, Calif. -- Ralphs Grocery Co. here said last week George Golleher will become chief executive officer of the 413-unit chain as part of a top-management shuffle to position the company for long-term growth. Golleher told SN Ralphs' immediate goal is to implement the final stages of the Ralphs-Food 4 Less merger by integrating distribution facilities, while the long-term goal is "to continue to grow the company and eventually access the public markets."
Golleher, 47, the former president of Food 4 Less Supermarkets, La Habra, Calif., had been vice chairman of Ralphs since the merger of Food 4 Less and Ralphs last June. The vice
chairman position was created for him and will not be filled now that he's CEO. In another change, Al Marasca, 53, will retain the title of president and chief operating officer that he has held since the merger but will take on added responsibilities, including oversight for all the company's stores. Previously, he had been responsible only for the conventional Ralphs units in southern California and for manufacturing, while Golleher ran all Food 4 Less warehouse stores and all stores in northern California and the Midwest. Golleher succeeds Byron Allumbaugh as CEO. Allumbaugh, 64, who had been CEO of the merged company since June -- and chairman and CEO of Ralphs for 21 years prior to the merger -- resumed the title of Ralphs chairman last week. Allumbaugh succeeds Ron Burkle, who had held the title of chairman since the two companies were combined. Burkle is managing partner of Yucaipa Cos., the Los Angeles-based investment firm that put the merger together.
Allumbaugh said Golleher and Marasca will be responsible for most day-to-day decisions. In a phone interview with SN last week, Golleher said Ralphs plans to make the 1 million-square-foot distribution center in Riverside, Calif. -- which Ralphs acquired from Smith's Food & Drug Centers, Salt Lake City, late last year -- into the chain's primary distribution complex; convert Ralphs' fully automated warehouse in Glendale, Calif., into a secondary picking facility and a primary storage facility for forward buys; and shut down the grocery, frozen foods and creamery facilities in La Habra that formerly served Food 4 Less while retaining a bakery facility there. Golleher said Ralphs expects to complete that process over the next four months. He also told SN Ralphs plans to open 26 new stores over the next two years, mostly under the Ralphs banner. Allumbaugh said last week he plans to retain the title of chairman past his normal retirement date of Jan. 31, 1997 -- the end of the company's next fiscal year. He told SN he will formally retire on that date but will continue as chairman, albeit as a non-executive chairman. "In a business career the happiest day is when you become CEO, and the second happiest day is when you're able to hand off the responsibilities to someone else," Allumbaugh told SN last week. Allumbaugh said his responsibilities as chairman will include real estate activities and certain strategic initiatives; he also said he will continue to head The Ralphs/Food 4 Less Foundation, a nonprofit charitable group. Burkle is also chairman of Dominick's Finer Foods, Northlake, Ill., but gave up the title of CEO there last week to Robert Mariano, Dominick's president.