Delaney, a former partner at Bain Capital, took over from Christopher Baldwin in February of last year after joining the group as vice president and chief growth officer in 2016.
“We are shocked and profoundly saddened by the passing of Lee Delaney. Lee was a brilliant and humble leader who cared deeply for his colleagues, his family and his community," the company said in a statement Friday. "We extend our most heartfelt condolences and sympathy to his family, especially his wife and two children. We will honor his legacy and remember the extraordinary impact he had on so many."
"Our thoughts are with them during this difficult time," the statement added.
BJ's shares were marked 1.4% lower in early afternoon trading Friday to change hands at $44.18 each, leaving the stock with a six-month gain of around 8%
BJ's indicated his death was of "presumed natural causes" but noted it was unexpected. CFO Bob Eddy, who joined the group in 2007, will assume Delaney's role on an interim basis, the company said.
“Bob partnered closely with Lee and has played an integral role in transforming and growing BJ’s Wholesale Club,” said Baldwin on behalf of the Board. “We have the utmost confidence in Bob’s leadership and his deep knowledge of the business."
"We expect to announce permanent changes to our leadership within a reasonably short timeframe, aided by our prior succession planning,” he added.
Under the first full twelve-months of Delaney's stewardship, BJ's reported adjusted earnings of $857 million for its fiscal 2021 year, which ended on February 1, a 47% increase from the same period last year that included a 21% increase in comparable store sales and overall revenues of $15.1 billion.
Credit Suisse analysts said Delaney's efforts "set the stage for accelerated market share and membership gains during COVID," adding "we expect the company to continue to successfully execute the strategies that Delaney and Eddy put in place."