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Laurel Grocery's C.E.O. to Step Down in Planned Transition

LONDON, Ky. -- Privately owned wholesaler Laurel Grocery Company here said yesterday that its c.e.o., Bruce Chesnut, intends to step down effective Jan. 1, 2006, but will remain chairman of the board. President and c.o.o. Jim Buchanan will assume Chesnut's administrative duties, becoming president and c.e.o.

The latest transition was planned, Buchanan told Progressive Grocer yesterday. "Bruce had planned to step down as c.e.o. so that he can dedicate more time to his family and other businesses he's involved in," said Buchanan. "He'll still be available to me for counsel, and the board will meet with him once a quarter to go over business."

Chesnut, 62, became president and c.e.o. of Laurel Grocery Co. in 1985 and chairman of the board in 1997.

Buchanan, 58, joined Laurel Grocery in 1999 as president and c.o.o. He was formerly with Nash Finch, running what used to be Super Foods. Prior to that, he was an operating group president with the Fleming Cos.

Buchanan said he's "excited" about his new role and will continue focusing on serving the company's independent retail customers.

"Hopefully we can sustain the growth that we've achieved," he noted. "We've more than doubled our volume in the last five years. When I joined the company in 1999 we were bringing in $160 million a year. Now we're over $350 million in sales."

Other executives who are being promoted as part of the management transition include Bob Kirch, e.v.p. of operations, who will now serve as e.v.p. and c.o.o.; and Doug George, v.p. of finance, who's being promoted to c.f.o.

Winston Griffin will remain vice chair and chief legal counsel.

Founded in 1922, Laurel Grocery Company is privately owned by the Chesnut and Griffin families. The wholesaler currently serves 440 retailers in seven states out of its distribution center here.
-- Jenny McTaggart
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