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Carrefour Replaces its Chief Executive

José Luis Durán will step down in January as retailer continues to lag far behind Walmart



Carrefour SA (Levallois-Perret, France), the world’s second-largest retailer, announced it will replace ceo José Luis Durán, effective Jan. 1, 2009, to try to end shareholder tension over its performance and strategy. The move has been the subject of speculation for several months.

Durán, who had been at Carrefour for 18 years, will be succeeded by Lars Olofsson, currently a vp at Nestlé SA (Vevey, Switzerland), where is responsible for strategic business units, marketing and sales. Carrefour chairman Amaury de Sèze said Olofsson had “exceptional experience in consumer markets, built over more than 30 years, both in France and internationally, within the number one global food industry group.” The company said that Olofsson was “multicultural and fluent in French.” Durán, a Spaniard, spoke no French when he came from Spain in 1994 to work at Carrefour in France. He was the retailer’s first ceo who was not French.

Though Carrefour had 2007 revenues of $103 billion, it has been losing ground to Walmart Stores Inc. (Bentonville, Ark.), which had 2007 revenue of more than $350 billion. Carrefour has sought in recent years to expand in countries like Brazil, China, Romania and Taiwan to counter the flagging performance of its stores in France.

According to The New York Times, “the company has consistently missed market expectations for its results in recent years and the onset of the global economic crisis has further hurt its business as French consumers increasingly seek out discount stores.” Shareholders have reportedly been unhappy with Durán’s leadership and The Blue Capital consortium, Carrefour’s largest shareholder (with a 13.5 percent stake), helped engineer his removal from the board of directors at a special shareholder meeting this summer.



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