Shopko chief named ‘Max CEO

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OfficeMax has named former Shopko Stores chief Sam Duncan as its new president/CEO.

Duncan, 53, has spent his entire working life in retail, and prior to heading up the 360-strong Shopko chain, he served as president of Fred Meyer, a division of leading grocery retailer The Kroger Co.

Duncan has little doubt where his priorities lie. He said: "As we move forward, we will focus on achieving profitable sales and delivering value for our shareholders, customers and employees."

Executive chairman George Harad, who had been acting CEO since Chris Milliken’s departure in February, is clearly pleased to have got his man. He said: "Sam is a proven leader who has delivered strong operating performance in changing business climates. He is the ideal person to lead our company as we fully integrate the two businesses brought together with the 2003 acquisition of OfficeMax, and work to realise the potential of this integrated business model."

Unfortunately, the stock markets showed little excitement over the news, with ‘Max’s share price dipping a few percentage points in the first morning’s trading.

As part of its grand plan to return excess capital to its shareholders, the company has also started a tender offer to buy back shares to the value of $799 million, or 25 per cent of its total outstanding common stock.

But the month at OfficeMax has also been marked by consistent irritation from its third largest shareholder K Capital, which owns approximately a 6.2 per cent stake.

On 11 April, the Boston-based investment firm put forward a nomination for the company’s board of directors at this month’s annual shareholders’ meeting.

Earlier, the shareholder urged the OfficeMax board to consider a break-up or sale of the company. The election of its nominee Karl Meyer at the shareholders’ meeting on 9 May would significantly enhance its position.

A statement issued by K Capital read: "K Capital urges all OfficeMax shareholders to elect Karl Meyer to the company’s board of directors… Electing a new, independent director should provide a new voice and fresh perspective for the board."

K Capital’s choice would directly oppose the current independent director nominated for re-election, Carolyn Ticknor. And ‘Max is not happy. Harad said: "We are disappointed that K Capital has opted to conduct an election contest, especially in light of our express invitation to K Capital to present to us any specific strategic proposal for the company it might have."

And in its most recent swipe at OfficeMax, K Capital has called on Harad to forgo more than $14 million in bonus-related payments because of the company’s "weak performance". "We are confident that by voluntarily forgoing these payments, you will realign your interests with those of the company and its shareholders," the investment firm said in a letter to the executive chairman.