EAST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. -- Shaw's Supermarkets here said Ross McLaren will take over as president and chief executive officer, effective Sept. 7.
ole of president and CEO has been filled on an interim basis by David Bremner, chairman of Shaw's and deputy group chief executive of J. Sainsbury plc, London, Shaw's parent company.
McLaren is currently chief operating officer of Homebase, located in Wallington, Surrey, England, another wholly owned Sainsbury subsidiary.
McLaren will be facing expectations both internal and external, according to observers. Internally, his major challenge will be to improve Shaw's performance in its Connecticut stores. Externally, he will have to deal with persistent speculation that J. Sainsbury plc, Shaw's London-based parent, may choose to sell the 125-store chain, now that the sale of its other U.S. holding, Giant Foods, Landover, Md., to Ahold, Zaandam, The Netherlands, is almost completed.
Sainsbury officials have indicated they will hold on to Shaw's, saying they have "a clear, longterm strategy for our involvement in the U.S. market."
McLaren will provide some continuity from Bremner, since he is also a longtime employee of Sainsbury, having spent more than 30 years working in various jobs for the company.
McLaren previously held positions at Sainsbury Supermarkets and Savacentre in England, and he worked at Shaw's from 1990 to 1992 as vice president of buying -- a role in which he was instrumental in establishing Shaw's Own Label program, which accounts for 40% of total Shaw's sales, the company said.
Executives of Sainsbury said earlier this year they "are determined" that Shaw's 16-unit Connecticut division can achieve profitability by 2000 or 2001 after experiencing an 8.5% drop in operating profits in 1997.
The need to tend to its Connecticut holdings was considered so important that Shaw's cut back plans earlier this year to expand into New York State so it could concentrate on problems closer to home. At the time, Shaw's said it would invest $85 million to $90 million this year in capital projects, including five new stores in Connecticut.
Shaw's had only five stores in Connecticut until 1996, when it acquired 12 Edwards Super Food Stores from Ahold. It subsequently closed one unit.
Sainsbury officials said in May the Connecticut stores have begun operating in line with expectations following changes made there last fall, including introducing more European-style displays, increasing deli and bakery offerings and reducing the prominence of private label in favor of more major brands.
In other corporate changes announced last week:
* Scott Ramsay has been named executive vice president, finance and information systems and strategic planning, responsible for cross-functional programs to better serve customers and achieve financial objectives. He was formerly senior vice president, retail operations.
* Paul Gannon, formerly senior vice president, finance and information systems, has been named executive vice president, marketing, store format and real estate, concentrating on implementing strategic initiatives in marketing and real estate.
* Jim Walsh will succeed Ramsey as senior vice president, retail operations, responsible for all 125 store locations. Walsh, formerly vice president, southern region retail operations, was also appointed to Shaw's board of directors. No successor has yet been named to the southern region post. Ramsay, Gannon and Walsh will all report to McLaren. * Verne Powell has retired as executive vice president, corporate development and external affairs, although he will continue as a director. He was with Shaw's for 20 years, including posts as assistant to the president and senior vice president of marketing. His responsibilities have been absorbed by Ramsay and Gannon.