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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Jan. 6, 201112:00 PM EST

Winn-Dixie makes management changes: Portnoy resigns, Eckstein retires to advisory role

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by Karen Brune Mathis

Managing Editor

Jacksonville-based Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. announced several management changes on Wednesday, including the resignation of senior vice president Dan Portnoy.

In a news release, Winn-Dixie said Portnoy, senior vice president and chief merchandising and marketing officer, has resigned from the company.

Portnoy and company officials did not comment about reasons for the resignation.

Winn-Dixie said Portnoy’s duties will be performed by Mary Kellmanson, group vice president of marketing; Matt Gutermuth, group vice president of non-perishables, pricing and corporate brands; James Smits, group vice president of perishables; and John Fegan, vice president of pharmacy.

All four will report directly to Peter Lynch, chair, president and CEO of Winn-Dixie.

Portnoy joined Winn-Dixie in mid-2007 with more than 30 years of experience in the food industry.

Winn-Dixie, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in February 2005 and emerged in November 2006 as a new company with a new board of directors, has been reviewing its strategy.

At the company’s annual meeting in November, Lynch told shareholders that its 2010 fiscal year “was a very challenging year for both our company and our industry.”

Lynch reviewed the company’s store remodeling program, which he said has been slowed, and assured stockholders of his commitment to making whatever adjustments were necessary.

“I am confident that our strategy is sound,” he said at the Jacksonville-based company’s Westside headquarters.

Winn-Dixie also announced Wednesday that Laurence Appel, who joined Winn-Dixie in 2002 and formerly served as general counsel, corporate secretary and senior vice president of human resources, has been named senior vice president of retail operations.

Appel replaced Frank Eckstein, who retired from his current role but will continue to serve in an advisory capacity until the end of fiscal year 2011.

Appel will also report to Lynch.

“Larry has tremendous experience with Winn-Dixie and in retail in general, having worked at Winn-Dixie for nearly a decade and at Home Depot prior to that,” said Lynch in a statement.

“I am confident he will make a very positive impact on the management of our stores as we continue to execute our strategic initiatives and lay the foundation for our future growth,” he said.

Appel will be succeeded as general counsel by Timothy Williams, who joined Winn-Dixie in 2003 and formerly served as assistant general counsel.

Succeeding Appel as senior vice president of human resources is Anita Dahlstrom-Gutel, who joined the company almost two years ago and formerly served as vice president of corporate human resources and talent acquisition/management.

Both will report to Lynch.

“I want to thank both Frank and Dan for their many contributions, and especially their efforts to build very capable teams that are well-prepared to support the company as we execute our strategic initiatives and drive the business forward,” said Lynch.

“On behalf of the entire company, we wish them all the best.”

Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. was founded in 1925. It operates 484 retail grocery locations, including 379 instore pharmacies, in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi.

The company employs about 47,000 people.

In a news interview following the annual meeting in November, Lynch acknowledged the difficulties of the economy, which was in a recession from December 2007 to June 2009 on a national level.

“The Southeast has been hit harder than other parts of the country,” he said.

In July, Lynch announced that Winn-Dixie would close 30 stores, including one in Jacksonville, and eliminate about 120 jobs because of the economy. The company closed the store along Baymeadows Road near Florida 9A.

The closed stores were underperforming and had not been renovated. Lynch said in November that the company has slowed its remodeling process. “When we come out (of the recession), we will be better able to compete in the future,” he said.

“We continue to take a hard look at our strategy,” he said. “We’ll continue to fine-tune our strategy going forward.”

Lynch said the company believes it needs to “grow top-of-line sales.”

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