Muller will join the Belgian retailer on Oct. 14 and become CEO on Nov. 8, Brussels-based Delhaize said today in a statement. Pierre-Olivier Beckers, whom Muller will succeed, will remain on the board of directors in a non-executive role.
Muller, 52, was a management board member at Dusseldorf, Germany-based Metro from 2006 until early 2013, and ran the Cash & Carry wholesale unit starting in 2008. Metro, Germany’s largest retailer, said in March that group CEO Olaf Koch would replace Muller as head of its biggest unit to simplify management. Cash & Carry accounted for 47 percent of Metro’s revenue in 2012, down from 51 percent in 2006, while the Media-Saturn electronics unit grew to 31 percent from 26 percent.
“Though Delhaize clearly saw something in the man -- they flag his international record along with his understanding of the supply chain -- his critics would accuse him of being ‘asleep at the wheel’ when he ran Cash & Carry,” Andrew Gwynn, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas said in e-mailed comments today. It was “a business that did well in new markets, but struggled to mature gracefully.”
Delhaize dropped as much as 5.5 percent to 46.98 euros at 9:13 a.m. in Brussels, the steepest intraday drop since May 29, 2012. That pared the stock’s gain this year to 55 percent.
The retailer also said today that Roland Smith is resigning as head of the company’s American unit. Smith will be available as adviser to the CEO until the end of the year, Delhaize said.
Smith’s departure is a “big disappointment,” as he helped Delhaize reverse “the declining margin trend in the U.S. with far more aggressive cost-saving actions,” Exane’s Gwynn said. There was speculation he was in the running for the company’s top job, the analyst said.
Delhaize’s second-quarter earnings, which were released on Aug. 8, showed that cost savings and better supplier terms are outweighing price cuts in the U.S. The grocer narrowed its forecast that day for the decline in full-year earnings, predicting a drop of less than 3.5 percent in operating profit, excluding currency effects, instead of a fall of 3.6 percent.
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