JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The pending retirement of A. Dano Davis as chairman of Winn-Dixie Stores here is not expected to have any impact on the chain's operations or long-term strategies, industry analysts told SN last week.
The analysts also said they doubted that the drop in Winn-Dixie's stock price -- to a 52-week low of $3.22 early last week -- had any connection to the announcement of Davis' retirement, with one analyst telling SN the timing was just a coincidence and another saying the stock decline may have been related more to disappointing earnings results at Kroger a few days earlier than to events at Winn-Dixie.
Earlier this year, Winn-Dixie unveiled a plan to close 156 stores and sell other assets in an effort to refurbish its remaining stores and revitalize its flagging performance.
Winn-Dixie said Davis, son of one of the chain's founders and its chairman since 1988, will retire next month from the company's board of directors after 36 years with the company. His retirement will follow Winn-Dixie's annual meeting, which is scheduled for Oct. 20.
Nominated to succeed Davis as chairman and director will be H. Jay Skelton, president and chief executive officer of DDI Inc. here, a diversified holding company owned by the Davis family. The Davis family continues to own approximately 40% of Winn-Dixie stock.
Kathy Lussier, a Winn-Dixie spokeswoman, told SN Davis' retirement should not be interpreted as a sign the Davis family has any plans to sell its stake in the company or to change its ownership position.
"His wife died four years ago, and he's remarried since, and his priorities have changed," she explained. "His term is set to expire next month at the shareholders' meeting, and he felt that was a good time to make this transition in his life."
Lussier said Davis' decision to retire is based on a desire to spend more time with his family and to deal with "a minor health concern," which she said the 59-year-old has declined to pinpoint.
The analysts told SN they do not expect Davis' retirement to have any significant impact on the company or its operations.
"Davis has become less active since the company brought Al Rowland in as chief executive officer several years ago [followed more recently by Frank Lazaran] to deal with the growing complexity of the industry," Gary Giblen, senior vice president and director of research for C L King Associates, New York, said.
Another industry analyst offered a similar assessment. "Davis' contribution to strategic activities has lessened over the last few years, considering the number of management executives recruited from outside the company. Besides, his designated successor as board chairman heads the Davis family's holding company, so any influence Davis might want to exert can come through Skelton."
Davis said in a prepared statement, "I have been considering this decision for some time and believe the end of my term this fall is the best time for me to retire. I have worked with [Skelton] for many years and am confident in him and the Winn-Dixie management team, and I believe the company is continuing on the right track towards improving its operational performance and position in its core markets.
"I extend my appreciation to all of my colleagues at Winn-Dixie, as well as our customers and vendors, for helping to make my career so enjoyable and fulfilling."
Davis is the son of J.E. Davis, one of the four founders of Winn-Dixie. Two other second-generation family members will remain on the board: T. Wayne Davis, son of founder Tine W. Davis, and Charles P. Stephens, son-in-law of M. Austin Davis.
Skelton said he has followed Winn-Dixie closely during his career "and have become very familiar with its business and the challenges facing the industry. I am excited to work with the board and management to help Winn-Dixie improve its competitive position."