ARLINGTON, Va. — Supervalu veteran Michael Jackson, named last week as the National Grocers Association's new president and chief executive officer, has spent a lifetime working with independents — a background that played a major role in his selection, NGA directors told SN.
Jackson will formally succeed Thomas K. Zaucha on March 1, a few weeks after NGA's annual convention, scheduled for Feb. 9-12. Jackson spent 29 years with Minneapolis-based Supervalu, ultimately serving as president and chief operating officer, before resigning from the company in mid-August following an organizational shakeup.
Zaucha, 65, who has been the association's top executive since its founding in 1982, will continue with NGA through June, with the title of president emeritus, to provide input on strategic public policy initiatives, membership development and critical business relationships, the association said last week.
“Mike's long history of working with independent operators at Supervalu is what NGA is all about,” Rich Niemann Jr., president and CEO of Niemann Foods, Quincy, Ill., and chairman of NGA's search committee, told SN last week — “and he has the luxury of executive experience that will enable him to take the reins and help the association continue to grow.
“NGA is and has been very relevant to all types and sizes of independent grocery operators, and Mike's background and executive and management ability is what endeared him to the search committee. And he has a lot of enthusiasm for the organization and is committed to taking what Tom has built and build on that.”
Niemann said the search committee vote to recommend
Jackson as Zaucha's successor was unanimous, as was the subsequent vote of the entire NGA board.
Chris Coborn, president and CEO of Coborn's, St. Cloud, Minn., and NGA chairman, also cited Jackson's career working directly with independent operators as a tremendous asset. “He fervently believes in the unique role that we play in serving the consumer and is passionately committed to our future,” he said.
“Mike possesses the industry knowledge, professional experience, leadership skills and passion to lead NGA to the next level of excellence.”
Nick D'Agostino III, president and chief operating officer of D'Agostino Supermarkets, Larchmont, N.Y. — an NGA board member and member of the search committee — told SN Jackson was the right pick “because he has worked with independents at the wholesale level on a daily basis for a long time, so he understands their problems and how stores are run.”
The process of seeking a new NGA president and CEO began last June, after Zaucha announced plans to retire next summer. NGA hired a search firm — the Washington, D.C., offices of Russell Reynolds Associates, New York — to come up with a list of potential successors, Niemann told SN.
“They went out and assessed dozens of candidates and gave those names to the search committee, which whittled the choices down to seven people we wanted to interview,” he said.
Though he declined to name the other six candidates, Niemann said they included a mix of association executives, including one internal NGA candidate, plus industry people.
Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of the Food Marketing Institute, said in a prepared statement she's looking forward to working with Jackson “to enhance the ways our associations work together to advance the issues, interests and concerns of our great industry.”
Jackson said in a news release that he intends “to take the support of the independent sector to the next level,” though he could not be reached for comment.
Jackson had been NGA chairman until he resigned his position at Supervalu in August, at which point he had to give up the NGA post. He was succeeded by Coborn.
Jackson spent 29 years with Supervalu, starting as a retail counselor and working his way up through various divisions to become president of the Tacoma, Wash., division in 1991, president of the Northwest region in 1995, corporate senior vice president of retail operations in 1999 and executive vice president, distribution food companies, in 2001 before his elevation to president and chief operating officer in 2005.
Zaucha joined the industry in 1969 as assistant to the director of government and industry relations for the National Canners Association, and he then became director of public affairs for the National Association of Food Chains.
He told SN he was scheduled to become head of public affairs for Food Marketing Institute when he accepted an invitation to work for A&P.
He returned to Washington in the 1970s to serve as president of the Cooperative Food Distributors Association and was instrumental in merging that group with the National American Retail Grocers of the U.S. in 1982 to form NGA.