COMPTON, Calif. -- Alfred A. Marasca, who said he will retire Dec. 31 as president and chief operating officer of Ralphs Grocery Co. here, told SN he expects to keep his hand in the food industry while pursuing outside prospects as well.
Marasca, who turned 56 last week, announced late last month he has decided to end his 40-year career with Ralphs.
It was unclear last week when a successor will be named or whether that executive will come from within Ralphs ranks or from outside.
In a letter announcing his retirement plans to Ralphs employees, Marasca said his decision "comes with mixed emotions. [But] I have attained most of my personal and business goals, and it seems appropriate that I now look forward with excitement to the next stage of my life.
"It has been the single greatest honor and privilege in my life to serve as your president the past five years, [and] I thank each of you for providing me that opportunity and, more importantly, for your great support over the years."
In a conversation with SN last week, Marasca said he does not anticipate working for any other company, "though I have no plans to retire as such and I want to stay involved in the industry."
He said Ralphs has suggested "that I continue to represent it for at least a year at the Food Marketing Institute, the Western Association of Food Chains and other associations, and I have agreed."
Marasca said he wants to spend "the next nine or 10 years of my business life" pursuing other areas of interest, including professional speaking, consulting, training and marketing and charitable work.
He said he disclosed his plans five months before his retirement "to give Ralphs as much notice as possible to effect an orderly transition." However, he said, he was uncertain how the company would go about selecting a successor.
Marasca joined Ralphs at the store level in 1957, when he was 15 years old, moving from boxboy to clerk to key person before joining the chain's marketing department in 1969. He began as a grocery buyer/merchandiser and subsequently was buyer/merchandiser for frozen foods and bakery and then director of grocery buying and merchandising. In 1974 he was named vice president of personnel, and two years later vice president of marketing. He was named senior vice president of marketing in 1978, executive vice president of marketing in 1985, and executive vice president of retail in 1991. Marasca became Ralphs president in 1993 and added the title of chief operating officer in March 1994, shortly before the mid-1994 merger of Ralphs and Food 4 Less Supermarkets under the ownership of Yucaipa Cos., Los Angeles.
His responsibilities include overseeing the company's four operating divisions: Ralphs Supermarkets and Food 4 Less warehouse stores here; Falley's, Topeka, Kan.; and Cala-Bell Food Stores, Hayward, Calif.
Observers said they do not anticipate Marasca's retirement or the naming of a successor will have much effect on the company's longterm prospects.
"Had it occurred a year ago, it would have been a different story," Bob Lupo, a high-yield analyst with BA Securities, Chicago, told SN, "but the company has had good numbers the last few quarters and it expects a good third quarter."
Ted Bernstein, an analyst with Grantchester Securities, New York, expressed similar sentiments. "It's definitely true that a year or more ago, people would have been more concerned. But the company has gotten expenses under control and consolidated its distribution facilities since then and has gotten back on track with its cost-savings plan." In his letter to employees Marasca said, "Under the leadership of our chief executive officer, George Golleher, Ralphs has an excellent management team and is well-positioned for continued growth and success in the future. I will devote much of my energy in the next several months to working with George in further preparing the company for my departure."
Neither analyst was sure whether Marasca's successor would come from inside or outside the company. "What Ralphs needs is someone who knows the California market and the Ralphs store base, who can implement the strategies that have been planned," Lupo said.
According to Bernstein, "Ralphs has a lot of good middle- and senior-level managers, so the company could easily fill the job from inside."
Marasca is a director of the Food Marketing Institute; a director and past president of the Western Association of Food Chains; a director of the California Retailers Association; and a past president of the City of Hope Food Industry Circle.
He said he opted to make his retirement plans known several months in advance "[because] there has been a tradition within Ralphs for company presidents to [do so]," noting that his two predecessors, Byron Allumbaugh and Pat Collins, also disclosed their retirement plans well in advance of their actual retirements.