Interim CEO gets full time job at Office Depot
Boca Raton, Fla. — After serving seven months in an interim capacity, Office Deport made a surprise decision and named long-time board member Neil Austrian as its new chairman and CEO. The announcement ends a lengthy search that began last fall when former chairman and CEO Steve Odland left the company on Nov. 1, amid deteriorating business results and Austrian was tapped to serve in an interim capacity. He had previously served in an interim role prior the company’s appointment of Odland.
When the search began, it was widely expected that Office Depot would turn to an executive outside the company and perhaps outside the office products industry to turn around it sagging fortunes. That’s why the revelation that Austrian would serve as full time CEO was such a curious choice and one that offers potential insight into a future scenario that may involve the company playing a role in further consolidation of the office products industry.
“Our search for a new leader to guide Office Depot through these challenging economic times was very thorough. While we met many qualified candidates who were excited about the opportunity, we kept coming back to Neil,” said Marty Evans, the Office Depot board member who led the CEO search committee. “Over his seven months at the helm, Neil has had a profound effect on the company, its culture, and its relationships with key stakeholders. He has already increased the talent level of the management team and taken the steps necessary to grow sales, leverage assets, and build brands. His ability to focus on key initiatives, to energize associates, and to drive performance led the board to re-think the decision to introduce a new leader at this time. The board firmly believes that Neil is the best person to lead Office Depot’s return to profitable growth and to attract and build talent for the future.”
For his part, Austrian said he was flattered and humbled that the board would choose him and noted that he has witnessed the type of renewed energy and excitement at the company during the past seven months that will be necessary to restore profitability to levels experienced years earlier.
“We have focused the company on a few key initiatives, some of which will begin paying off this year, while others will reap benefits in 2012 and 2013,” Austrian said. “What has given me encouragement is the fact that our associates have all signed up for this focused approach. We understand that we are on a journey, the benefits of which will take time to fully realize.”
As the company looks to realize benefits of its focused approach, it is also conceivable it will be positioning itself for sale since the board’s selection of Austrian as CEO would not appear to be a long-term leadership solution.
“While Austrian’s main priority will be to fix the company, pursue the existing strategies, and map a path back to more normal levels of profitability, we also believe this decision has significant implications for the potential for industry consolidation in the medium-term,” said Bernstein Research analyst Colin McGranahan. “At 71 years of age, Austrian is unlikely to view himself as Office Depot CEO for a long-term horizon. As such he may be less concern about building up a lasting personal legacy, and be more agnostic and flexible in pursuing potential combinations.”
Austrian has served on the Office Depot board since 1998 when the company merged with Viking Office Products. He had been a director of Viking since 1988. Prior to his career in the office products world, Austrian was president and COO of the National Football League from April 1991 until December 1999. He was a managing director of Dillon Read & Company, Inc. from October 1987 until March 1991. Before Dillon Read, Austrian was chairman and CEO of Showtime/The Movie Channel, a joint venture between Warner Communications and Viacom, and he also served as CEO of the advertising firm Doyle, Dane, Bernbach.
Kaplan Thaler Group named Supervalu’s agency of record
NEW YORK — Creative agency Kaplan Thaler Group has been tapped to run Supervalu’s latest ad campaign, according to a blog posted on the Kaplan Thaler Group site Monday.
As lead creative agency, the Kaplan Thaler Group’s responsibilities will encompass advertising, digital and direct marketing across all Supervalu banners — including Acme, Albertsons, Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s/Star Market, Shop ‘n Save, Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, Hornbacher’s and Save-A-Lot.
A New York Times report estimated billings would be around $80 million. The first campaign will focus on seasonal foods and value for this summer, the report added.
Disney Store celebrates 25 years with new and remodeled stores
Pasadena, Calif. — Disney Store plans to open its interactive concept stores in more than 40 locations in 2011 the company announced today at the Global Retail Real Estate Convention in Las Vegas. The company said that by the end of 2011, it will have 60 new concept stores in 16 major markets in North America and eight countries.
In spring 2012, the original Disney Store location at the Glendale Galleria in Glendale, Calif., will be remodeled to celebrate the retail chain’s 25th anniversary. First built in 1987, the store pioneered the entertainment retail concept. The Glendale store will be just one of many planned remodels in 2012.
“The excitement from our guests has been phenomenal and we’re working diligently to open more locations in new markets,” said Paul Gainer, SVP Disney Store North America. “We want to give landlords a new retail experience that will drive return visits to their malls and give families the opportunity to experience the Disney Store magic in their local community.”
New and remodeled Disney Store locations to open throughout the fall and winter of 2011 include:
Disney Store’s Florida Mall location in Orlando will be remodeled this fall with the new design, and Pembroke Lakes Mall in Pembroke Pines, Fla. will open an all-new location.
Locations in Canada’s West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Alberta and Southcentre Mall in Calgary will open this fall.
Kenwood Towne Center in Cincinnati will receive the first newly-designed Disney Store in the state of Ohio.
Texas will celebrate the opening of Disney Store locations at La Plaza mall in McAllen, and Houston Galleria in Houston.
The first newly-designed Disney Store in Missouri will open at the St. Louis Galleria.
California will get two new locations this fall with stores opening in the Galleria at Roseville in Roseville, Calif. and Westfield Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks, Calif.