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Safeway Inc. chairman and CEO Steve Burd will retire as CEO and as a director at the grocer’s annual stockholders meeting May 14, 2013.
The Safeway board has begun a search for a successor, and will consider both internal and external candidates for the job. Burd will help with the search and will continue to assist the company after he transitions out of his leadership posts.
"I feel this is the right time to move forward with a transition plan," said Burd. "The company is gaining market share with each passing quarter. We have developed the most sophisticated digital marketing platform in retail, we are implementing the most comprehensive and personalized fuel loyalty program, and we will be rolling out a wellness initiative that has the potential to transform the company."
Burd joined Safeway October 1992 as president and was appointed CEO in May of the following year. As CEO, he has been responsible for transforming the company over an unprecedented 20 years at the helm.
Some of his key initiatives include establishing a culture of thrift and capital discipline, creating an industry-leading customer service program, developing the "Lifestyle" store format, introducing a high level of quality in perishable products, and forming a prepaid payment network that has become one of the largest distributors of gift cards in the world. He also accelerated Safeway’s efforts in charitable giving and sustainability. During his tenure, the company raised more than $2 billion for charities, including over $200 million for cancer research.
Burd's arrival at Safeway, a largely unionized company, coincided with an extraordinary growth in new food retail formats, virtually all of them non-union. These changes put downward pressure on both sales and margins, but through strategic initiatives and cost reduction efforts, Safeway still managed to outperform the S&P 500 over the last 20 years.
Safeway has also become one of the nation's most recognized leaders in health care. In the last eight years, it has introduced innovative design and practice features into its health plans. As a result, while the average U.S. company experienced an 8 percent annual growth in employer health care costs from 2005 through 2011, Safeway averaged a 2 percent annual growth rate for both the employer and employee contributions.
"While I still have the high level of energy and enthusiasm I brought to the company 20 years ago," Burd added, "I need more personal time and, given my extensive work in health care, I want to pursue that interest further."
More recently, Safeway has introduced a unique digital marketing/loyalty platform called "just for U." This platform allows the company to personalize its prices to individual shoppers. Safeway has also partnered with a technology company to bring innovative health care services to Safeway's customers.
"Steve has been an iconic leader and is one of the industry's most innovative CEOs," said Gary Rogers, Safeway’s lead independent director. "He will be very difficult to replace. As he moves to the next phase of his career, we hope to continue to leverage his input and assistance as the Company moves ahead with its exciting new programs."
Safeway Inc. operates 1,644 stores in the United States and western Canada and had annual sales of $43.6 billion in 2011.