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Anders Moberg, the CEO of Royal Ahold who joined the company four years ago in the wake of a major financial scandal that forced the ouster of the company’s previous CEO, announced this morning that he will leave the company effective July 1, a year before his contract was scheduled to expire.

Analysts quoted in numerous stories suggest that Moberg’s departure could mean that the company shortly will be sold or broken up, though such speculation has been taking place for some time. The company already has put its US Foodservice division up for sale.

He will be replaced on an interim basis by CFO John Rishton, and a final decision on a permanent successor is scheduled to be made later this year.

The financial scandal that Moberg was hired to help the company survive centered on overstated earnings, mostly at US Foodservice. Bloomberg notes that Moberg has been largely successful at regaining investor confidence; Ahold shares have doubled since Moberg took the CEO job.

However, there have been dissident shareholders – a pair of investment firms pushed for a break up of the company last year, saying that it was the best way to maximize shareholder value. There also reportedly were negotiations taking place that could have led to an acquisition of Ahold by Delhaize, though no deal ever came to fruition.
KC's View:
It was a little less than a year ago that Moberg spoke at the annual CIES Summit, and we reported on his comments that 1) he was working to create a more integrated company, 2) was interested in the long-term future of the company, not a short-term sale, and 3) believed that eventually Ahold would end up acquiring other companies in an effort to grow.

At the time, a number of people with whom we spoke expressed real skepticism that Ahold would exist in its current state five years from now…and even wondered how long Moberg would continue in his job. And certainly there have been plenty of questions about Moberg’s integration strategies, especially in the merger of Stop & Shop’s and Giant’s operations in the US…which a number of experts believe has undermined Giant’s differential local advantages in the Baltimore-Washington marketplace.

We’ll know a lot about how the board sees Ahold’s future based on who they hire to run the company. But we wouldn’t bet against the likelihood of a breakup or sale in the not too distant future.