Is A New Ceo On Kmart's Shopping List?

Kmart is looking for a new senior executive. The question outsiders are asking: How senior?

Headhunters report that the troubled retailer is actively searching for a chief operating officer who would serve under Chairman and Chief Executive Joseph E. Antonini. But some outsiders believe that the board actually is looking for a new CEO to replace Antonini. One headhunter noted that the COO search could be a smokescreen--a way to avoid asking Antonini to allocate funds to find his own replacement.

Antonini has been under intense pressure from shareholders who want him to forge a turnaround for Kmart. And retailing consultants say Antonini could use a strong No.2 to do the job. A Kmart spokeswoman won't detail the company's hiring plans, but she points out that at last spring's annual meeting, Antonini promised a complete review of Kmart's management. Outside sources confirm that a board committee has been looking for new senior managers.

Antonini, who couldn't be reached to discuss the executive search, told BUSINESS WEEK in mid-August: "I feel secure in the job."

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