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Several Major Initiatives
Safeway was in the midst of several major initiatives, including ramping up the use of its new Just For U personalized, digital market platform; introducing a new health care initiative, the details of which have yet to be disclosed; and preparing for the possible spin-off of its Blackhawk gift card business.
Heinbockel said he “does not see this transition meaningfully impacting the company’s strategic direction or actions,” although he and others did say the announcement caught them by surprise.
Deborah Weinswig, an analyst with Citigroup, New York, noted that Burd’s planned departure means that the company is searching for both a CEO and a chief financial officer. The current interim CFO, Robert Edwards, succeeded Burd as president last year and is considered a leading internal candidate to succeed him as CEO.
“Burd has helmed the company for two decades, and we are concerned that his departure creates a difficult gap to fill,” she said in a research note. “However, we believe he leaves Safeway well positioned to see accelerating top-line growth in 2013 as Just For U continues to gain traction.”
Other candidates to succeed Burd as CEO include Bill Tauscher, CEO of Blackhawk and “a very knowledgeable retailer,” said Heinbockel.