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CINCINNATI -- Michael S. Heschel will retire from the Kroger Co. here at the end of the fiscal year. Christopher T. Hjelm, an accomplished technology executive from outside food retailing, will join the chain later this month to replace Heschel.
Heschel, 64, joined Kroger in 1991 as group v.p. of management information systems. Three years later, he was promoted to s.v.p. with responsibility for coordinating all MIS services, logistics and reengineering projects, and in 1995, was named to his most recent post as e.v.p. and c.i.o., leading the national chain's information systems initiatives for the past decade.
"Over the past decade, Kroger has made significant investments in new technology and logistics to enable our stores, manufacturing plants, warehouses and offices to operate more efficiently," said David B. Dillon, Kroger's chairman and c.e.o. "These investments have provided our associates with many of the tools they need to better serve our customers. Through it all, Mike's leadership and thoughtful counsel have proved invaluable to our organization, and we are grateful for his contributions."
Hjelm, 44, comes to Kroger after a two-decade career in technology leadership experience at high-growth Internet companies, as well as Fortune 500 firms. Most recently, Hjelm served as c.i.o. of travel distribution services at Cendant Corp. While there, he led the division's technology strategies and was responsible for all aspects of engineering, site architecture, and operations.
Hjelm also previously served as s.v.p. for technology at eBay Inc., overseeing all aspects of technology. Under his leadership, eBay achieved record levels of site quality and reliability during a period of accelerating global business growth and new product introductions.
Hjelm also spent 14 years at Federal Express Corp., where he was s.v.p. and c.i.o., responsible for information technology planning, development, operations and revenue operations. His role also included reengineering of the global billing process and systems, formation of technology strategic planning and architecture, and worldwide standardization and expansion of technology services and products during a period of rapid international growth.
At the end of the first quarter of fiscal 2005, Kroger operated (either directly or through its subsidiaries) 2,524 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 32 states under two dozen local banners including Kroger, Ralphs, Fred Meyer, Food 4 Less, King Soopers, Smith's and Smith's Marketplace, Fry's and Fry's Marketplace, Dillons, QFC and City Market. Kroger also operates, either directly or through subsidiaries, franchise agreements, or operating agreements, 793 convenience stores, 432 fine jewelry stores, 552 supermarket fuel centers and 42 food processing plants.