Safeway replaces chief executive with former Wal-Mart director

SAFEWAY, THE struggling supermarket group, yesterday replaced Colin Smith as its chief executive with a former Wal-Mart director in an attempt to revive its flagging fortunes.

Mr Smith is giving way to Carlos Criado-Perez, who joined Safeway as chief operating officer in the summer. Mr Criado-Perez, 47, was tipped as Mr Smith's successor at the time, although the handover had not been expected to take place until next year.

When Mr Criado-Perez was appointed in August, Mr Smith was reported as saying: "I would hope to appoint him as my successor, but we are talking years. It is a rough, tough old market place, but I enjoy my job."

Mr Smith had been under pressure at Safeway for some time and his departure had been long forecast. The City appeared to welcome the news, marking the company's shares 12.5p higher to 211p. This was despite a warning from the company that its first-half profits would be around pounds 150m - at the lower end of expectations. However, the company said its trading was ahead of the industry average.

Mr Smith, 52, is expected to receive a pay-off of up to pounds 1.2m. He was employed on a two-year rolling contract and last year his total earnings were pounds 615,000, of which pounds 527,000 was basic pay. One analyst said: "I,'m sure he [Colin Smith] is a nice man but I think this move is good for the business."

Mr Smith came from an accountancy background while the City has been pushing for a recognised retailer to revitalise the chain, which is facing increasing price pressure from Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda.

A spokesman for Safeway admitted that the succession had been brought forward but said: "This shows Safeway is capable of taking good, firm action in contrast to Sainsbury's, where the demotion of Dino Adriano has been a fudge." He said the decision for Mr Smith to leave was made "by mutual consent".

Mr Criado-Perez yesterday gave a firm pledge to increase Safeway's market share. He said: "At the moment we are number four [in the UK supermarket sector]. We are not looking to remain number four." He said he would be giving full details of his strategic plans at the group's interim results presentation on 25 November.

He added: "I do not want to tell our competitors what we are planning, but I can tell you that there will be substantial decentralisation. I intend to drive decisions from store level."

He said he hoped to bring more focus to the business than his predecessor. "I am a retailer. I have worked from the bottom to the top. My first job was pushing trolleys... Mr Smith is a much broader manager."

He said he perceived his former company, Wal-Mart, as "a formidable threat" to the sector. But he said: "The company has yet to demonstrate it can perform as well abroad as at home."

Paul Smiddy, food retail analyst at Credit Lyonnais Securities, welcomed the decision. "There was no point holding back with this decision.... The possibility of a conflict between Mr Smith and Mr Criado-Perez over retail strategy could have damaged the business. [Mr Criado-Perez] now has full scope to change the business quickly and radically."

Mr Criado-Perez, a keen marathon runner, was previously chief operating officer of the international operations of Wal-Mart, the US giant that acquired Asda in June.

David Webster, Safeway's chairman, said: "With all that is happening in the retail sector, we needed a change of strategy and a change of direction.... To make that happen, we needed a new face." He claimed the change was "a turning point for Safeway".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Graduate Application Support Analyst

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Reach Volunteering: External Finance Trustee Needed!

Voluntary post, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Would you ...

Christine McCleave: FP&A Analyst

£36,000 - £40,000: Christine McCleave: Are you looking for a new opportunity a...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn