Michal Lagunionek, a veteran of Lidl’s Poland division and an international board member overseeing the discounter’s fast-growing operations in the U.S., is taking over as the new CEO of Lidl U.S. from Johannes Fieber, who is resigning after three years in charge.
Fieber in a memo sent to employees of Lidl on April 20, said he was “taking a break” from his career in order to spend more time with his wife and three daughters. The veteran of Lidl divisions in Sweden and Italy was appointed U.S. CEO in May 2018, succeeding Brendan Proctor, and tasked with stabilizing the promising and influential discount brand whose U.S. debut in 2017 was rockier than expected.
“For millions of Americans, and indeed for me as well, this past year also stressed the importance of family. Nothing is more important. I am immensely proud of our team’s work bringing greater stability and food access to families across our communities this past year. Now that the outlook in the United States has stabilized and brightened, I have decided to take a break from my career to spend more time with my wife and three little girls. I have missed being with them more during these demanding times,” the memo said.
As U.S. leader, Fieber unwound several decisions made by his predecessors regarding store design and layout, pivoting toward reusing existing space rather than building new stores, shrinking store footprints, and adapting a homier look and feel than the gleaming glass-and-chrome impression of its earliest stores. Fieber also oversaw the conversion of acquired Best Market stores in metro New York, bringing Lidl into high-density and wealthier neighborhoods. That process is nearly complete.
Fieber said he would stay with Lidl a month to prepare for a transition to his successor.
Lagunionek brings 20 years of experience with Lidl to his new role. He served for more than a decade leading Lidl in Poland. For the past six years he’s been a member of the retailer’s board of directors and has overseen the U.S. division in that role since last summer when he replaced the departing Roman Hieni.
“Michal is one of Lidl’s most experienced and accomplished executives,” Fieber’s memo read. “He is an exemplary leader and brings more than two decades of international retailing experience to Lidl U.S. I have had the privilege of working closely with Michal and can attest to how well-positioned he is to drive our business forward. I am happy to assist him and the entire team during this transition period.”
Fieber’s note saluted employees of Lidl U.S. as they dealt with the pandemic over the last year, calling this “one of the most challenging periods in a generation.”
Lidl is owned by the Schwarz Group out of Germany and operates more than 12,000 discount stores under the Lidl brand in 33 countries. The company has developed a bit of a reputation for leadership changes: Lagunionek will be the fourth U.S. CEO since initial plans to invade America arrived in 2015. Kenneth McGrath, Lidl’s first U.S. boss, departed before the company opened a store and today heads Save-A-Lot. Proctor, who like McGrath emerged from Lidl Ireland, has since established a consulting business. Heini, the Aldi veteran who was Lidl’s U.S. chairman until departing last summer, in December was named CEO of German retailer Woolworth.
“On a personal level, I am tremendously proud of all that we have accomplished together, supporting Lidl’s path to growth,” Fieber added. “Through my many visits to our stores, warehouses, property offices and headquarters, I have seen firsthand your countless contributions to our business. Together, we have successfully completed the Best Market brand acquisition and transformation on Long Island; we have introduced exciting new store concepts to better serve our customers, including our newest, which will open this week in Manassas, Va.; and we have been recognized as the fastest-growing retailer in the United States for two consecutive years.”
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