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The Kroger Co. has named Christine S. Wheatley secretary and general counsel, replacing Paul W. Heldman, who will retire in the spring of 2014.
Wheatley, who is currently Kroger’s VP, senior counsel and assistant secretary, joined Kroger in 2008 as corporate counsel. She also is a Kroger representative for the Greater Cincinnati Minority Counsel Program, and serves as a fellow in the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. Before joining Kroger, Wheatley was a partner at Porter Wright Morris & Arthur in Cincinnati.
"Christine has been instrumental in leading Kroger's business law group as well as the company's legal affairs," said Rodney McMullen, Kroger's president and COO. "Her passion and dedication to our company is evident in all that she does, and she will be a great asset to our senior leadership team.” As secretary and general counsel, Wheatley will report directly to McMullen, who will become Kroger's CEO in January.
Heldman, who has been serving as the company’s general counsel since 1989, secretary since 1992 and EVP since 2006, 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 including senior counsel, assistant secretary, VP, group VP and senior VP before assuming his current roles.
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 associates. He also was a key leader on the team that executed Kroger's merger with Fred Meyer, Inc. in 1999 to establish the nation's largest grocery company.
David Dillon, Kroger’s chairman and CEO, said that Heldman’s contributions to the company are “quite remarkable,” adding that “he has been a trusted advisor and exceptional leader, providing outstanding guidance for our leadership team when we needed it most."
Cincinnati-based Kroger operates 2,418 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states under two dozen local banner names including Kroger, City Market, Dillons, Jay C, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Fry's, King Soopers, QFC, Ralphs and Smith's.