Kroger plans CIO succession, adds alternative business head

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Kroger plans CIO succession, adds alternative business head

By David Salazar - 01/30/2019
Kroger is making some executive shuffles as part of its Restock Kroger initiative. The Cincinnati-based retailer on Wednesday announced its succession plans for executive vice president and chief information officer Christopher Hjelm, who’s set to retire Aug. 1. It also named a leader of its newly unified 84.51˚ data analytics arm and personal finance division.

Ahead of Hjelm’s retirement, Kroger named Yael Cosset, currently the company’s chief digital officer, as his successor effective May 1. Between May and his retirement, Hjelm will remain executive vice president, reporting to chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen. Cosset will oversee Kroger technology, as well as his current Kroger digital portfolio.

"Yael and Chris have worked collaboratively to support Kroger's technology evolution," McMullen said. "Consistent with Kroger's history of thoughtful succession planning, Chris and Yael have a deliberate transition plan to ensure continuity, while successfully delivering on our Restock Kroger technology initiatives to redefine the grocery customer experience."

Hjelm joined Kroger in 2005 as senior vice president and CIO after holding executive positions at FedEx, Orbitz and eBay. He was named executive vice president in 2015.

"Chris has been a key member of the senior leadership team at Kroger for over a decade, playing a transformational role in making Kroger a respected technology company," McMullen said. "We are grateful for his leadership during this important time in our company's history. We know Chris will enjoy spending more time with his new granddaughter and close-knit family in retirement, while continuing to pursue his ongoing entrepreneurial technology interests."

Cosset has been with Kroger since 2015, when he joined as chief commercial officer and CIO of 84.51˚. He was made group vice president and chief digital officer in 2017, overseeing the company’s digital growth strategy. Previously, he held various leadership roles at dunnhumby, including CIO and CEO of KSS Retail.

As the company planned for Hjelm’s departure, it also moved to build out its non-retail divisions and bring them together under one umbrella. The company named Stuart Aitken to the newly created role of senior vice president of alternative business effective Feb. 3. He will oversee 84.51˚ and Kroger personal finance, as well as develop a portfolio of alternative businesses to support the company’s growth model. He also will be CEO of 84.51˚ and oversee Kroger’s marketing.

"Stuart is a dynamic leader with a proven track record of value creation in businesses that further monetize Kroger's successful core," McMullen said. "Throughout his time at 84.51° and as a member of Kroger's senior leadership team, Stuart has been instrumental to the successful development and growth of the alternative profit stream portfolio. That portfolio makes the transformation of Kroger's growth model possible, by developing successful asset-light, margin-rich businesses."

Aitken was elected group vice president in 2015 and has led 84.51˚ since it began the same year. He was named chief marketing officer in 2017. Previously, he was CEO of dunnhumbyUSA since 2010. He also has held leadership roles at such retailers as Michael’s Stores and Safeway.

At Kroger’s 2018 investor day, Aitken outlined Kroger’s vision for alternative profit streams, highlighting how leveraging stores, data and logistics can create new streams and drive investments in improved customer experience, Kroger said.

Kroger said that tech and digital are key elements of its Restock Kroger three-year plan to build shareholder value and deliver on its 2020 financial targets.