Report: Some Safeway Shareholders Looking to Oust Chairman

NEW YORK - A group of shareholders of Safeway Inc. plans to begin a campaign today to oust Chairman Steven Burd and two outside directors from the board, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Five major public-employee pension funds are leading a drive to vote out Burd, who is also chief executive and president, and directors William Tauscher and Robert MacDonnell from the board, according to the story.

The five funds, which together own about 7 million of Safeway's 444.8 million shares, are led by the Illinois Board of Investment.

The move follows a campaign by dissident shareholders of Walt Disney Co. that led to removing Chief Executive Michael Eisner as chairman earlier this month. In that case, Disney shareholders voted 43 percent of the company's shares against Eisner. The Safeway shareholders group is targeting a 43 percent negative vote, Bill Atwood, a spokesman for the Illinois Board of Investment, said, according to the story.

Issues of contention have included Tauscher's position as chief executive of a marketing and technology venture that received investment money from Safeway and was also compensated for consulting work in 2000, the Journal reported.

Other issues include the close ties of four of Safeway's nine directors to private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., which undertook a leveraged buyout of Safeway in 1986, and the grocery chain's languishing share price.

The group, which includes pension funds in Connecticut, New York and California, plans to unveil its campaign at a news conference in Washington, D.C. today, the story said.
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