Kroger Chairman Retires

CINCINNATI - Joseph A. Pichler, chairman of the Kroger Co., retired June 24 after 24 years with the company, according to published reports. Pichler guided Kroger through its 1988 financial and a decade later was at the helm during the retailer's biggest-ever merger.

Pichler was chairman from 1990 to 2004 and c.e.o. from 1990 to 2003. Earlier he held several executive positions at Kroger and Dillon, which merged with Kroger in 1983.

Under Pichler's supervision Kroger expanded from about 1,200 supermarkets and $20 billion in annual sales to one of the United States' biggest retail grocery chains, with over 2,500 stores, $54 billion in annual sales, and 290,000 employees. He also led oversaw Kroger's 1999 merger with Fred Meyer, Inc.

As anticipated, the Kroger board of directors elected David B. Dillon, Kroger's c.e.o., to the additional position of chairman. The board also elected Jon C. Flora as an officer of the company. Flora had been promoted to s.v.p. earlier in the month. Richard K. Davidson resigned from the board.

"Joe devoted his career at Kroger to building on the organization's strengths and positioning the company for a bright, successful future," Dillon said. "Joe led by example. He believed the trust and confidence of our customers, associates, investors, and communities was something we had to earn every day."

In other Kroger news, the company's shareholders, following directors' recommendations, voted against proposals that would have instituted annual elections of board members and barred anyone from serving as chief executive and board chairman at the same time, AP Online reported.

The retailer announced at its annual meeting late last week that the proposals, similar to ones adopted by other companies in the wake of corporate scandals such as those at Enron and WorldCom, did not receive enough votes to pass.

Amalgamated Bank Longview Collective Investment Fund of New York had proposed annual elections of directors in place of the current staggered system of three-year terms. According to Amalgamated, annual elections would provide shareholders with increased influence over corporate policies increase management's accountability to shareholders. The board's position was that the staggered terms offer greater continuity with Kroger's business affairs and operations.

The United Association of S&P 500 Fund of Oaks, Pa. said that its proposal for separating the top positions would result in greater management accountability to the chairman, but company directors countered that one person in both positions could provide more efficient and effective leadership.
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