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VOL. 132 | NO. 54 | Thursday, March 16, 2017

Fred’s Brings on New Board Members

By Andy Meek

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Change continues to be the operative word at Memphis-based retailer Fred’s Inc., which has made some key additions to its board in recent days as the company continues pursuing a major turnaround that includes completing its acquisition of 865 Rite Aid stores.

The new board additions include current president and CEO Mike Bloom, as well as 24-year CVS veteran Christopher Bodine and former Safeway and Starbucks CFO Peter Bocian. In tandem with those additions, Michael Hayes, John Eisenman and Jerry Shore have decided not to stand for re-election to the board at its 2017 annual meeting.

Executive search firm Spencer Stuart helped the board pursue its “reconstitution,” as the company describes it. Fred’s chairman Thomas Tashjian said the addition of new talent to the board comes at an important time for the company, as management continues to execute on “value-enhancing initiatives” like the acquisition of hundreds of Rite-Aid stores, optimizing its own store fleet and upgrading its technology infrastructure.

He also suggested the transformation of the company’s board to align leadership with the work ahead will continue, adding that “our work is not done.”

“Under Mike’s leadership, Fred’s has made significant progress toward the execution of our strategic vision, and we are thrilled that he can expand his role in the company through (the board) appointment,” Tashjian said. “All of our new directors strengthen our board by contributing their vast knowledge of the retail and health care industries, substantial leadership experience and financial expertise and strong track record of successfully integrating acquisitions.”

The board additions are one of several ongoing efforts at repositioning the company, which had for years struggled and sought in vain to reverse slumping sales. The formula it settled on last year includes a mix of efforts such as putting greater emphasis on the pharmacy side of the business, building up its technology offerings, launching an app this year, buying the Rite Aid stores and more.

The company is also still considering a move of its headquarters within Memphis. Fred’s told The Daily News in December it’s considering multiple possibilities within a few miles of its current location.

Last month, CFO Rick Hans told The Daily News the company continues to review multiple sites, but said in recent days he could not offer a timeframe for when a decision would be made.

Highlights of the board additions, meanwhile, include:

• Bodine brings an impressive track record from CVS, where he helped build up the company by being responsible for strategy, business development, trade relations, sales and account management, pharmacy merchandising, marketing, information technology and the MinuteClinic. He also drove the integration and growth efforts of the pharmacy-retailer, including through the merger of CVS and Caremark. He said he, Bloom and Bocian will work closely with the rest of the board to “help set the company’s strategy.”

• Bocian has served in executive-level finance and administrative roles at companies like Starbucks, Hewlett-Packard, JPMorgan Chase and Safeway, where he most recently served as executive vice president and CFO until 2015.

And then there’s Bloom, who’s served as Fred’s CEO for less than a year. Since moving into the top executive spot, Fred’s has generated a 29 percent shareholder return. Bloom has also assembled a new leadership team in pursuit of a growth plan that includes optimizing the company’s store portfolio, expanding into health care services and delivering better results both in the pharmacy and front of store.

PROPERTY SALES 92 480 7,835
MORTGAGES 115 551 8,785
BUILDING PERMITS 325 1,167 17,068
BANKRUPTCIES 39 311 5,159