The world's fourth-largest retailer is getting a change at the top. Kroger (NYSE:KR) said on Friday (Sept. 20) that CEO David Dillon will retire in January and be replaced by current Chief Operating Officer Rodney McMullen.
McMullen will become Kroger CEO on Jan. 1, 2014. Dillon will remain Kroger chairman.
The shift doesn't signal a change in direction for the chain. Dillon, who was named Kroger CEO in 2003, and McMullen, who became CFO in 1995 and president and COO in 2009, have worked closely over the past decade, during which Kroger resumed paying shareholder dividends in 2006, grew revenue $45 billion and boosted Kroger's headcount by 53,000. McMullen also played what the company called "a pivotal role" in Kroger's 1988 restructuring, which blocked a hostile takeover.
Dillon and McMullen together were also responsible for the creation of DunnhumbyUSA, the joint venture between Kroger and Tesco-owned Dunnhumby that has given a huge advantage in collecting customer data, especially from loyalty programs. That may be Dillon's most significant legacy, because it helped Kroger push back against Walmart's (NYSE:WMT) foray into grocery. In recent years, Kroger has actually gained ground against Walmart, which has historically rejected loyalty programs and use of CRM data.
McMullen joined Kroger in 1978 as a part-time stock clerk to work his way through the University of Kentucky. He stayed with the retailer after graduation, working in a retail division office in Charlotte, N.C., for four years before moving to corporate headquarters in Cincinnati as a financial analyst, according to the Cincinnati Business Courier.
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