Strategy

Whole Foods Appoints New CFO, Directors

Under pressure from investors, the grocer is attempting to rebound from seven consecutive quarters of declining same-store sales.
Matthew HellerMay 11, 2017
Whole Foods Appoints New CFO, Directors

Whole Foods has appointed a new CFO and “refreshed” its board, replacing five of the 12 members, as it attempts to rebound from seven consecutive quarters of declining same-store sales.

Keith Manbeck, a veteran finance executive who has worked for Kohl’s, Nike, and Victoria’s Secret, will take over as CFO at Whole Foods amid what is, according to The New York Times, “the greatest crisis of confidence in its 37-year history.”

Last month, hedge fund Jana Partner announced a major investment and proposed four nominees to the company’s board, saying the pioneering organic grocer needed to take dramatic steps to fix its ailing business.

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“We understand that significant change is required at an accelerated pace,” Whole Foods CEO John Mackey said Wednesday on a conference call with investors.

In addition to Manbeck’s appointment, Whole Foods announced what it called a “board refreshment.” Several of the five new board members have extensive retail experience.

Whole Foods shares rose 2.4% to $37.14 in trading Thursday, indicating investors approve of the changes. The company also said it will accelerate a planned customer loyalty program, apparently responding to shareholder demands, and would cut $300 million in additional costs over the next four years.

As the NYT reports, Whole Foods “faces fierce competition and has been forced to slash prices as national retailers like Costco, Safeway and Walmart have begun offering their own organic produce and kitchen staples.”

In the second quarter, the company’s revenue increased 1.1% to $3.7 billion, but comparable sales sank 2.8%, reflecting a drop in foot traffic.

The new board members include Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich, Best Buy CFO Sharon McCollam, and Ken Hicks, the former chief executive of Foot Locker. Manbeck comes to Whole Foods from Kohl’s, where he has served as senior vice president of digital finance, strategy management, and business transformation since 2014.

“Keith has a track record of success at leading retail companies, including Kohl’s and Nike, where he led key transformation initiatives with great results,” Mackey said. “He is a proven leader who knows how to drive strategic change, while maintaining the culture and values that make a company great.”

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