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    Nash Finch C.E.O. Marshall to Leave in '06

    MINNEAPOLIS -- Leading food distributor Nash Finch Company said yesterday that its c.e.o., Ron Marshall, will resign on March 2, 2006 after a seven-year span leading the company. Marshall, 51, said in a statement that he wants to "consider new challenges."

    MINNEAPOLIS -- Leading food distributor Nash Finch Company said yesterday that its c.e.o., Ron Marshall, will resign on March 2, 2006 after a seven-year span leading the company. Marshall, 51, said in a statement that he wants to "consider new challenges."

    Marshall will continue as c.e.o. and as a director of the company until March 6, and will assist in the search for his successor. Allister Graham, chairman of the Nash Finch board of directors, will chair a special committee of the board to conduct that search.

    "I am very proud of the performance-driven culture that the executives and associates have developed at our company, allowing us to succeed by focusing on the needs of our independent retailer customers, who include some of the best marketers in the country," said Marshall. "It has been a privilege to work with them, and I will miss our association. Our company has tremendous opportunities ahead of it, but after more than seven years in this position, I believe it is time to turn over the leadership of this enterprise, and consider new challenges. I look forward to assisting Al and his committee in their search."

    Said chairman Graham, "Ron took control of this company at a critical point in its history, when it had lost direction and was in decline. In its place, he gave us great leadership, created a culture of continuous improvement, and a sense of commitment and direction. He developed a most effective team and a comprehensive strategic plan that has positioned this company very well. "

    Industry consultant and retail watcher Burt Flickinger III, president of New York-based Strategic Resource Group, said while he was "certainly surprised" to hear of Marshall's resignation, he expects to see the exec resurface at another company in a turnaround capacity, much like his mentor, Jim Donald of Starbuck's. "I would expect to see [Marshall] be very successful soon in another critical turnaround situation within the food distribution industry," Flickinger said.

    Flickinger complimented Marshall on bringing Nash Finch's stock price up 800 percent since his tenure to $40 a share, and suggested that price may come under pressure from the news of his leaving. "Marshall deserves credit for developing the military distribution business into the crown jewel of the company," he added.

    Marshall's "inspired misses" included trying to transform Nash Finch into more of a retail model, and launching the failed Avanza Hispanic concept and discount store group, Flickinger also acknowledged.

    Nash Finch's core business, food distribution, serves independent retailers and military commissaries in 28 states, the District of Columbia, Europe, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Iceland, the Azores, and Honduras.
    -- Jennifer McTaggart

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