Running the Latin American and Canadian operations of Wal-Mart Stores for the last five years, Craig Herkert has been a sort of Clark Kent of food retailing — a powerful figure toiling away in relative obscurity, waiting to be called upon to save the day.
He answered that call this spring when he agreed to be the new chief executive officer of one of the largest and most diversified companies in the industry. Rescuing Supervalu might indeed be a job for Superman.
The 2006 acquisition of Albertsons, while boosting Supervalu’s revenues considerably and shifting its focus heavily toward traditional supermarket retailing, has also proven to be a bigger challenge than some had anticipated for the Minneapolis-based retailer and wholesaler. That challenge is further complicated by the weak economy — one of Herkert’s first official statements as CEO was to announce that the company was going to report disappointing results for the first quarter.
A few days later at the company’s annual meeting, however, Herkert told shareholders that after spending several weeks touring the company’s far-flung operations, he’s encouraged by what he’s seen.
“It’s clear Supervalu is an organization with enormous potential,” he said. “The building blocks are all right here, from a world-class supply chain to strong traditional supermarkets. By seeing the operations first-hand as I have, I have seen the power we have to create Supervalu’s next exciting chapter.” He said he would reveal more details about how that chapter will be written during the coming weeks and months.
Before joining Wal-Mart, Herkert had spent 23 years with American Stores and Albertsons, two companies that have largely been absorbed by Supervalu.
Jeff Noddle, Supervalu’s executive chairman and former CEO, told shareholders at the annual meeting that Herkert’s retail experience was key to his selection. “Craig brings a wealth of experience and a working knowledge of many of our banners and our territories,” he said.
— Mark Hamstra