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Jeff Bezos makes $2 billion philanthropic pledge

BY Marianne Wilson

Amazon co-founder and CEO Jeff Bezos wants to help homeless families and preschools that serve low-income neighborhoods.

Bezos is pledging $2 billion to launch the Bezos Day One Fund, which will be comprised of the Families Fund and the Academics Fund. The initiative, announced on Twitter, is Bezos’ largest philanthropic effort to date. It comes on the heels of a $10 million gift by Bezos and his wife to With Honor, a super PAC that is working to get 20 veterans from both parties elected into the U.S. House of Representatives during the 2018 midterms.

The Families Fund will issue funding awards to existing non-profits that help homeless families, and are doing “compassionate, needle-moving work to provide shelter and hunger support to address the immediate needs of young families,” Bezos tweeted. The vision statement for the fund, he said, comes from Mary’s Place, a homeless shelter in Seattle: No child sleeps outside.

The Academics Fund will create a network of high-quality, full-scholarship, Montessori-inspired preschools in underserved communities. In a tweet, Bezos said “we will build an organization to directly operate” the preschools.

“We’ll use the same sort of principles that have driven Amazon,” he said. “Most important among those will be genuine, intense customer obsession. The child will be the customer.”

The initiative comes roughly a year after Bezos sought suggestions from the general public for ideas on philanthropy. Back then, he wrote that he wanted to help “people in the here and now — short term — at the intersection of urgent need and lasting impact.”

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Former Nike store executive joins cannabis firm

BY Marianne Wilson

One of the leading vertically integrated cannabis operators in the United States has tapped a retail veteran to head up its expanding store operations.

Curaleaf has named Chris Melillo as senior VP, retail operations. He will be responsible for spearheading Curaleaf’s dispensary expansion rollout and establishing a consistent customer experience for retail stores across the United States.

Most recently, Melillo served as VP of stores for footwear and apparel retailer DTLF/Villa. Prior to that, from 2013 to 2016, he was senior director of stores North America for Nike. He also served in management roles at Equinox and PetSmart.

Melillo has been instrumental in retail expansions, store design/construction, merchandising and omnichannel commerce in hundreds of stores, in addition to developing and leading retail teams across the country, Curaleaf said.

“As we strategically expand our business by growing our dispensary footprint, it was vital to attract a leader with extensive experience in managing multi-unit operations,” said Joseph Lusardi, CEO of Curaleaf. “Chris’s background makes him well-equipped to help develop the Curaleaf retail brand beyond our existing network in 12 states. Chris will support Curaleaf’s growth through the realization of our strategic plan to establish a national retail footprint with consistent, streamlined atmospheres, driving foot traffic and adoption of the well-established Curaleaf brand.”

Headquartered in Wakefield, Massachusetts, Curaleaf has a presence in 12 states. The company owns and operates 28 dispensaries, 12 cultivation sites and nine processing sites with a focus on highly populated, limited license states, including Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

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Albertsons Companies names longtime retail executive as CEO

BY Marianne Wilson

Albertsons Companies has tapped a veteran retailer with four CEO stints under his belt as its next chief executive.

The supermarket retailer said it has promoted Jim Donald, currently the company’s president and COO, to president and CEO of Albertsons Companies, effective immediately. He succeeds Robert Miller, who will continue as chairman,

Donald’s 47-year retail career began as a trainee in Florida with Publix Supermarkets. He joined Albertsons in 1976, which culminated in his being appointed VP of operations in Arizona. In 1991, he was recruited by Sam Walton to join Walmart to lead the development of their grocery business and superstore concept.

From Walmart, Donald went to Safeway, and then to Pathmark Stores, where he served as CEO from 1996 through 2002. He then went to Starbucks Corp., where he spent six years, including serving as president and CEO from 2005 to 2008.

Post Starbucks, Donald served as CEO of two other companies, Haggen and Extended Stay America, where he led its successful $565 million IPO. In March, Donald joined Albertsons as president and COO.

“Jim is an exceptional retailer,” Miller said. “In the seven months since he joined Albertsons Companies, he’s flown tens of thousands of miles and met personally with thousands of employees in hundreds of our stores, distribution centers, manufacturing plants, and offices around the country,” Miller said. “His expertise in listening to front line employees and customers, facilitating employee engagement and generating sales is unmatched, and there is no better leader for Albertsons Companies at this state in our evolution.”

Albertsons Cos. operates stores across 35 states and the District of Columbia under 20 well-known banners including Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen and Carrs, as well as meal kit company Plated based in New York City.

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