Delhaize America CEO out; Food Lion president now reports to Belgium office

SALISBURY — Food Lion parent Delhaize Group on Wednesday announced another management shake-up, including a new CEO and the resignation of the top executive for company’s U.S. operations, which are based in Salisbury.

While Frans Muller is in as the new chief executive officer for international food retailer Delhaize Group, Roland Smith is out as CEO of Delhaize America. Delhaize said in a press release that Smith resigned Wednesday.

The statement did not give a reason for Smith’s departure, but officials confirmed that Smith was vying for the job Muller won and was disappointed.

Smith, who joined Delhaize less than a year ago, will be available as a “senior adviser” to Muller until the end of the year.

Delhaize will not replace Smith and instead will consolidate the two chief executive officer positions, a company spokeswoman said. Delhaize’s U.S. operations, including new Food Lion President Beth Newlands Campbell, will report directly to the parent company in Belgium, starting immediately.

“There are no additional changes to Delhaize America,” Christy Phillips-Brown said. “We remain committed to Salisbury and our presence in Salisbury.”

Delhaize America makes up about 60 percent of Delhaize Group’s business. Muller plans to spend “significant time in the U.S., as well as Europe,” Phillips-Brown said.

Muller will succeed Pierre-Olivier Beckers, who announced plans to retire last year and also will remain an adviser through the end of the year and continue to serve on the board of directors.

Beckers thanked Smith for “significant contributions to the success of Delhaize America, particularly the energy and focus he brought to the business.”

“Our U.S. business continues to deliver positive results and we have a solid foundation upon which to build,” Beckers said. “There is a strong leadership team in place and we look forward to further progress in the U.S.”

Muller, 52, most recently served as CEO of Metro Cash & Carry with 740 stores and was a member of the management board of its parent company Metro AG. He will join Delhaize Oct. 14.

Muller has more than 15 years of senior leadership experience in retail. The company said Muller’s operational experience, from supply chain management to procurement, and ability to drive growth will be critical to Delhaize Group’s continued momentum.

Delhaize has been working to turn around Food Lion, which has struggled and closed more than 120 stores. Smith replaced former President Cathy Green Burns with Newlands Campbell in December and in February laid off 350 corporate workers and eliminated 150 vacant positions.

In May, Delhaize sold 155 stores operating under the Harveys, Sweetbay and Reid’s banners to rival supermarket company Bi-Lo.

Newlands Campbell told the Post last month that Delhaize is focusing resources on Food Lion. The grocery chain, which was founded in Salisbury in 1957, “has a tremendous amount of work to do” and must earn the trust of customers, she said.

Delhaize still operates more than 3,000 stores in eight countries, including Food Lion and Bottom Dollar Food based in Salisbury and Hannaford based in Maine.

Muller said Delhaize Group is “on track with its strategic priorities for the year and is focused on the areas that deliver the highest growth and returns.”

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.

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