stater Bros

By Ryan Hagen, San Bernardino Sun
Posted: 12/28/15 – 12:31 PM PST | U

SAN BERNARDINO >> After 36 years as chief executive officer of the largest private employer in San Bernardino County, Jack Brown announced Dec. 28 that he had appointed Pete Van Helden as CEO of Stater Bros. Markets.

That will end the longest term as CEO in the company’s 79-year history — including founders Cleo and Leo Stater. In fact, it’s the longest run of any current supermarket CEO in the United States, Brown said in a telephone interview.

Starting Monday, Brown will become executive chairman of the board of directors — allowing him to keep the final say. Meanwhile, Van Helden will take over daily oversight of the corporate, public relations and market financial division that Brown had run.

That was the plan since appointing Van Helden president and chief operating officer in 2013, Brown said.

“When I hired Pete to become president and chief operating officer, it was with the idea of watching him to see if I was comfortable with him taking over,” said Brown, 77. “Pete started as a box boy in Montana, so he understands the culture of our supermarket business, serving our customers. More importantly, Pete became part of our Stater Bros. family — he understands our corporate culture.”

That’s a culture and a game plan that won’t change significantly, Van Helden said.

“We’ve seen modest growth and we’re going to continue to focus on prices and focus on customers,” he said by phone. “It’s a formula that’s worked, and there’s no reason to change it.”

Van Helden, who began his supermarket career in 1977 as a courtesy clerk for Rosauers in Libby, Montana, said the industry had benefitted from Brown’s half-century of experience.

A new CEO selected from inside the company probably doesn’t foretell any big changes, said David J. Livingston, a supermarket analyst.

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