On the heels of its recently announced merger with Rite Aid, Albertsons Cos. has named veteran industry executive Jim Donald as president and COO in a strategic move that brings the former Starbucks president and CEO back to the company where his four-decade-long career in retail began.
“Having first worked at Albertsons 42 years ago, I have watched as an insider and from afar how their keen focus on customer service maintained a solid foundation for their team through the years,” Donald said in a statement. “Their acquisitive nature combined with their recent innovation efforts and strong Own Brands portfolio have helped them to build an even stronger company today.”
Effective immediately, Donald will be responsible for steering Albertsons’ merger with Rite Aid alongside the company’s leadership team, as well as leading operations of the retailer’s more than 2,300 store portfolio and accelerating its growing omnichannel platform.
“Understanding that to be successful as a company, as a leader, as a father or a husband, the entire group of individuals that you associate with must feel a part of the group,” Donald told Winsight Grocery Business in a recent interview. “I’ve found much success in making others successful by communicating, listening and involving every level of an organization.”
Donald has previously served as CEO of Starbucks, Haggen Food & Pharmacy and Extended Stay Hotels, as well as a member of the board of directors of Rite Aid from 2008 to 2013. He served as president of Safeway’s 130-store Eastern division from 1994 to 1996 and subsequently joined Pathmark Stores as chairman, president and CEO.
Donald began his career in 1971 as a trainee with Publix, and was later hand-picked by Walmart Inc. founder Sam Walton to help build the company’s emerging grocery operation into its now game-changing Supercenter division.
Renowned for helping struggling companies find their footing, Donald has been recognized as one of the “Top 25 CEOs in the World” by The Best Practice Institute and one of Business Travel News’ “25 Most Influential Business Travel Executives of 2013.”
“Jim Donald has built an exceptional career in retail. His knowledge of our company and industry is unmatched, and I know his contributions will be invaluable as we enter the next chapter of Albertsons Companies,” Bob Miller, chairman and CEO of Albertsons Cos., said in a statement. “We look forward to tapping his expertise in leading large consumer brands as we work every day to meet our customers’ needs, both in-store and online.”
Donald replaces Wayne Denningham, who retired earlier this year. Susan Morris, who was named EVP and COO in January, will continue in her role.
Burt P. Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group, in an interview with WGB described Donald as "one of the great inspirational retail leaders," with success across multiple formats that should increase momentum at Albertsons.
"Albertsons was at death's door not long along, and so was Rite Aid, but today these companies are poised to be the worst nightmare for Walgreens and Kroger," Flickinger said.