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Supervalu announces new CEO

BY Michael Johnsen

MINNEAPOLIS Supervalu on Wednesday named Craig Herkert, 49, formerly of Walmart, as the grocer’s CEO.

Jeff Noddle, 62, who has served as CEO since 2001 and chairman since 2002, will continue to serve as the company’s executive chairman and will work closely with Herkert throughout the upcoming months to ensure a smooth transition of senior management. Herkert’s official start date has not yet been determined.

“The board was looking for a candidate who has both deep retail experience and shares the values that Jeff Noddle and the current executive team have deeply engrained in the Supervalu culture,” stated Lawrence Del Santo, lead director of the Supervalu board. “His recent experience leading diverse formats in some of Walmart’s fastest growing markets, combined with his previous experience working at Jewel-Osco, Acme Markets and Albertsons, make [Herkert] the ideal executive to lead the company forward.”

“As we approach the end of year three of our company’s transformation and as I begin planning for retirement, the time is right to lay the groundwork for continuity of leadership through the next phase of our journey,” Noddle stated. “Craig Herkert is a talented executive with extensive experience in food retailing and supply chain management. As an integral part of Walmart’s senior leadership team, he has demonstrated an ability to create shareholder value and achieve business results. I look forward to working closely with [Herkert] in the coming months to ensure a seamless transition as we, and other members of the Supervalu team, continue to focus on our company’s future growth and success.”

Noddle will serve as executive chairman for at least one year and will play an active role in leading the company’s strategy. A 33-year veteran of the company, Noddle was the chief architect behind the 2006 acquisition of the premier Albertsons properties, the company reported. Noddle is also credited with reshaping the company’s supply chain structure to become increasingly effective through regional realignment, systems standardization and state-of-the-art technology enhancements.

At Walmart, Herkert served as president and CEO of the Americas since 2004. In that role, Herkert was responsible for a $52 billion business that encompassed a variety of diverse formats across Canada, Mexico, and Central and South America. From 2000 to 2003, Herkert served as SVP and COO of Walmart International, responsible for international merchandising, marketing and operations. Prior to joining Walmart, Herkert spent 23 years with the American Stores and Albertsons companies.

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Duane Reade forges ahead with store transformation

BY Antoinette Alexander

NEW YORK Duane Reade’s chairman and CEO John Lederer expressed cautious optimism during its first-quarter conference call with analysts on Tuesday as the company forges ahead with its transformation initiative amid a rough economy.

As previously reported by Drug Store News, the Manhattan-based pharmacy retailer is in the midst of transforming its store base using consumer research it compiled last year as the underpinnings for the go-forth strategy.

Duane Reade is rebranding its stores and has a new brand mantra, “Duane Reade equals New York living made easy,” to articulate its desire to become the destination of choice for beauty, wellness and convenience needs. These core offerings are supported by a new concept segmentation that is sub-branded: “How I look, how I feel and what I need now.” In addition, the company recently revamped its Web site to reflect the company’s new look and feel.

While Lederer acknowledges that the economic environment remains challenging, the results appear to be paying off as adjusted EBITDA rose 7.8% to $19.7 million, same-store sales rose 1.1%, and gross margins continued to expand.

“It was a period in which there were significant external challenges; however, in light of these challenges and weakened consumer demand we continued to perform well and continued the positive momentum of our business,“ Lederer told analysts.

Net retail store sales rose 2.8% to $426.7 million from $414.9 million in the year-ago period. Total net sales rose 4.1% to $444.5 million. Total same-store sales rose by 1.1% as front-end same-store sales, which were negatively impacted by a shift in the Easter holiday, decreased 0.8%.

Pharmacy-same-store sales rose 3.5%.

Net loss improved 18% to $17.2 million from $21 million.

Gross margin on net retail sales, which excludes pharmacy resale activity, increased 32.2% from 32% in the year-ago period, reflecting higher front-end selling margins resulting from an improved mix of higher margin categories includes of private label products and reduced inventory shrink losses.

In addition to addressing the quarter’s financials results and reaffirming its previously announced 2009 cost savings plan of $7 million to $10 million, Lederer also discussed plans to open a new 14,000-sq.-ft. store in Manhattan’s Herald Square during the summer.

“I bring that [store] to your attention because it is in the middle of Midtown and it has some incredible traffic counts. It is in a very hustle and bustle area and we are going to show some new innovation in that store in terms of categories and we are going to show the consumer where this brand is headed,” said Lederer.

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Investigational malaria treatment “likely” first novel drug from India, Ranbaxy CEO says

BY DSN STAFF

GURGAON, India A drug company based in India and mostly known for generic drugs hopes to transform the treatment of malaria in the developing world with an investigational drug that began phase 3 clinical trials Monday.

Ranbaxy Labs announced the beginning of the trial for an anti-malarial drug that combines arterolane maleate and piperaquine phosphate, conducted in India, Bangladesh and Thailand.

“I am delighted that our anti-malaria drug is entering phase 3 trials,” Ranbaxy chairman and CEO Malvinder Mohan Singh said in a statement. “Ranbaxy has always been at the forefront of research for drugs that are both relevant and affordable.”

Singh said that the drug is “likely” the first novel drug to emerge from India.

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