Steve Burd, chairman and chief executive officer of Safeway Inc., plans to retire as CEO and a board director in May.

Safeway, Steve Burd, retire, Safeway CEO, chairman, Robert Edwards, supermarket, food and drug retailer

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Safeway CEO Steve Burd to retire

January 3rd, 2013
Steve Burd

PLEASANTON, Calif. – Steve Burd, chairman and chief executive officer of Safeway Inc., plans to retire as CEO and a board director in May.

The food and drug retailer said late Wednesday that Burd, who has served as its CEO for 20 years, will officially retire at the company's annual shareholder meeting on May 14.

Safeway reported that its board has started a search for a successor and will consider internal and external candidates. In April, the company promoted executive vice president and chief financial officer Robert Edwards to president, which many industry observers saw as a succession move.

Plans call for Burd to assist with the CEO search and help the supermarket chain with the leadership transition.

"I feel this is the right time to move forward with a transition plan," Burd said in a statement. "The company is gaining market share with each passing quarter. We have developed the most sophisticated digital marketing platform in retail, we are implementing the most comprehensive and personalized fuel loyalty program, and we will be rolling out a wellness initiative that has the potential to transform the company."

Key initiatives during Burd's tenure as CEO, Safeway said, include instilling a culture of thrift and capital discipline, creating an industry-leading customer service program, developing the Lifestyle store format, bringing the quality of perishable products to industry-leading levels, and forming a prepaid payment network that has become one of the largest distributors of gift cards in the world.

Burd also accelerated Safeway's efforts in charitable giving and sustainability. During his tenure, the company raised more than $2 billion for charities, including over $200 million for cancer research.

In the last eight years, Safeway also introduced innovative design and practice features into its health plans. As a result, while the average U.S. company experienced an 8% annual growth in employer health care costs from 2005 through 2011, Safeway averaged a 2% annual growth rate for both the employer and employee contributions, the grocery chain said.

And more recently, Safeway rolled out a digital marketing/loyalty platform called just for U that enables the food retailer to personalize its prices for individual shoppers. The chain  has also partnered with a technology company to bring health care services to its customers.

"While I still have the high level of energy and enthusiasm I brought to the company 20 years ago," Burd stated, "I need more personal time and, given my extensive work in health care, I want to pursue that interest further."

Burd, 63, joined Safeway in October 1992 as president and became CEO in April 1993. He has served as chairman since May 1998.

"Steve has been an iconic leader and is one of the industry's most innovative CEOs," stated Gary Rogers, lead independent director on Safeway's board. "He will be very difficult to replace. As he moves to the next phase of his career, we hope to continue to leverage his input and assistance as the company moves ahead with its exciting new programs."

Safeway operates 1,644 stores in the United States and western Canada and had annual sales of $43.6 billion in 2011.

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