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Mark Foote takes over as Loblaw president


John Lederer has stepped down as president of Loblaw Companies Ltd., a decision reached by mutual agreement, the country's largest grocer said Wednesday.

Mark Foote was named president and appointed the chief merchandising officer, Loblaws said in a statement released before stock markets opened on Wednesday. Mr. Foote was hired this spring from Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. to head the grocer's troubled non-food division.

Mr. Lederer also resigned as a director of the company, where he has worked for three decades and most recently oversaw the company's restructuring.

In addition, Galen G. Weston is taking over his father's role as executive chairman of Loblaw. The senior W. Galen Weston is chairman and president of George Weston Ltd., which controls Loblaw.

Allan Leighton was appointed deputy chairman of George Weston Ltd., the third management change unveiled Wednesday.

The board and the Weston family, as the controlling shareholder, have been considering the company's future leadership structure and succession for some time, said the senior Mr. Weston. With John's stepping down, this is the appropriate point at which to implement a number of those considerations as we manage and prepare for the company's future.

He also thanked Mr. Lederer for the "significant" contributions he has made to the company during a career that spanned three decades. "We wish him well," Mr. Weston said.

The changes are effective immediately, the company said.

Loblaw stock fell 58 cents or 1.15 per cent to $49.92 in Toronto. Shares of the supermarket operator have dropped 10.4 per cent so far this year as management gears up to fight Wal-Mart Stores Inc. for turf in the Canadian groceries business.

The restructuring, which includes overhauling its systems, has hurt Loblaw's earnings and share price, and the supermarket chain's profit fell for the first time in 13 years in 2005. Expected cost savings from the changes have not yet kicked in.


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