Office Depot CEO stepping down, search for replacement begins
Office supplies retailer Office Depot announced Monday morning that Roland Smith will retire as CEO, remaining until a new chief is named (an announcement expected by the end of the first quarter of next year). Smith will remain as chairman of the board.
“My decision to retire has not been an easy one," Smith said in a statement. "In 2013, I set aside a number of personal ambitions to accept a three-year contract with Office Depot, and it’s now time for me to refocus on those priorities.”
Ron Sargent, CEO of rival Staples, stepped down in June, when the retailer’s former president of North American operations Shira Goodman took over as interim CEO. Office Depot and Staples are each seeking to implement new strategies after their plans to merge collapsed earlier this year.
The $6.3 billion merger of Office Depot and Staples would have created an international office supply giant with an impressive brick-and-mortar footprint to help neutralize the growing threat posed by online competition. But the U.S. District Court granted the Federal Trade Commission's request for an injunction against the deal, and now Staples and Office Depot are once again rivals, working to figure out what comes next.
Reducing that footprint appears to be part of the plan. Both have announced overseas reductions, and Office Depot said earlier this month that it will be closing another 300 stores in the next three years, on top of the 400 closures already planned since 2014.
Office Depot earlier this month also touted the completion of its three-year, post-failed merger strategic plan with four major elements: Accelerating its business contracts operations, revamping its North American retail model, cost reductions, and returning capital to shareholders. That effort will continue with another CEO at the helm, though.
“Roland and his team worked closely with the board to develop a clear and compelling three-year strategic plan that positions the company for profitable growth,” Warren Bryant, the board’s lead director, said in a statement. “Roland has led the company to a position of solid standing, and we appreciate his ongoing leadership and commitment to Office Depot as we identify and transition to our next CEO.”
Office Depot also announced other structural leadership changes alongside Smith's retirement. The company’s VP of retail, Troy Rice, will lead its newly consolidated retail, contract, e-commerce, and marketing operations in the newly created position of chief operating officer.
In addition, senior vice president of real estate Rob Koch will take on the newly-created position of executive vice president of business development, including evaluating the Office Depot's real estate opportunities and developing its “store of the future.”
Rice and Koch will report to Mark Cosby, president of Office Depot's North America unit, until a new CEO is named, and then the president and CEO roles will be consolidated. The company said it will consider both internal and external CEO candidates.
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