CINCINNATI — Kroger Co. here on Tuesday said that Paul W. Heldman, the company’s general counsel since 1989, would retire next spring and that Christine Wheatley was expected to succeed him.


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Heldman, 62, joined Kroger in 1982 as an attorney in the company's law department, where he focused on labor and employment law. He held leadership roles of increasing responsibility, including senior counsel, assistant secretary, vice president, group vice president and senior vice president. He was named secretary in 1992 and executive vice president in 2006.

Wheatley, 42, Kroger's vice president, senior counsel and assistant secretary, will be named secretary and general counsel, effective upon the retirement of Heldman next year, the company said. She joined Kroger in 2008 as corporate counsel. She became senior counsel in 2011 and vice president in 2012.

As general counsel, Heldman worked alongside other leaders to help Kroger avoid a leveraged buyout attempt in 1988 and to implement a restructuring and recapitalization effort that allowed Kroger to remain a public company while rewarding shareholders and expanding the availability of stock options to employees; and he was a key leader on the team that executed Kroger's merger with Fred Meyer Inc. in 1999.

"Paul's contributions to our company during his 31-year career are quite remarkable," David Dillon, Kroger's chairman and chief executive officer, said. "He has been a trusted advisor and exceptional leader, providing outstanding guidance for our leadership team when we needed it most. We wish Paul, his wife Debbie and their family all the best."

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