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Thursday is an important day for Safeway and its CEO, Steve Burd. The company will hold its annual meeting in Pleasanton, California, this Thursday, at which point the level of shareholder unhappiness about Burd’s tenure will become clear.

Concerned about poor financial performance and alleged conflicts of interest at the board level, five separate state pension funds have called for shareholders not to vote for Burd’s re-election as chairman, president and CEO. The funds believe that between 25 and 30 percent of shareholders could side with them, which could force Burd to step down from the chairman’s office – which would then precipitate the appointment of a non-executive chairman of the company.

It was just a development at the Disney Company that forced the resignation of Michael Eisner from the chairman’s office there, though he has stayed on as president. However, Eisner lost the support of 43 percent of his shareholders…a level of discontent that is not expected to be equaled at Safeway.

The retailer is not commenting on the upcoming vote.
KC's View:
It is instructive to note that just weeks after Eisner stepped down as chairman, Disney registered second quarter profits that were up 71 percent. So go figure.

We suspect that Burd will still hold all three jobs at the end of the week…but we think that while it may be time for some sort of change at Safeway, there are both long-term issues and short-term issues that need to be resolved at the company.

Our friend Glen Terbeek says that the problem with most retailing companies is that they spend much time, effort and money determining who the CEO should be, and precious little time worrying about who is running the stores and manning the checkout lanes – and it is the store manager and checkout person who has the most impact on the shopping experience.