PLEASANTON, Calif., Jan. 2, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Safeway Inc. (NYSE: SWY) announced today that Steve Burd, its long-time Chairman and CEO, will retire as CEO and as a director at the Company's annual stockholders meeting on May 14, 2013. The Board of Directors will begin a search for a successor, and will consider both internal and external candidates for the job. Mr. Burd will help with the search and will continue to assist the Company after he transitions out of his leadership posts.
Mr. Burd joined Safeway in October 1992 as President and was appointed CEO in May of the following year. As CEO, he has been responsible for transforming the Company over an unprecedented 20 years at the helm.
Among some of his key initiatives were establishing a culture of thrift and capital discipline, creating an industry-leading customer service program, developing the "Lifestyle" store format, introducing a level of quality in perishable products that had never been seen in food retailing, and forming a leading prepaid payment network that has become one of the largest distributors of gift cards in the world. He also accelerated the Company's efforts in charitable giving and sustainability. During his tenure, the Company raised more than $2 billion for charities, including over $200 million for cancer research.
Mr. Burd's arrival at Safeway, a largely unionized company, coincided with an extraordinary growth in new food retail formats, virtually all of them non-union. These changes put downward pressure on both sales and margins, but through strategic initiatives and cost reduction efforts, Safeway still managed to outperform the S&P 500 over the last 20 years.Safeway has also become one of the nation's most recognized leaders in health care. In the last eight years, Safeway has introduced innovative design and practice features into its health plans. As a result, while the average U.S. company experienced an 8 percent annual growth in employer health care costs from 2005 through 2011, Safeway averaged a 2 percent annual growth rate for both the employer and employee contributions.