Carrefour Appoints New CEO

Georges Plassat to succeed Lars Olofsson at helm of troubled supermarket operator.

PARIS — Georges Plassat, who is to become the new chairman and chief executive officer at Carrefour SA this summer, declared Monday that he is “well aware of the magnitude of the task ahead.”

This story first appeared in the January 31, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Plassat, currently ceo at French footwear and fashion retailer Vivarte SA, is to join Carrefour on April 2 as chief operating officer, succeeding Lars Olofsson at the management helm following its annual shareholders’ meeting on June 18. Since Oloffson took over three years ago, Carrefour, the world’s second-largest retailer behind Wal-Mart Stores Inc., has struggled to turn around its ailing hypermarket business and posted a string of profit warnings.

Earlier this month, Carrefour confirmed that it expects 2011 operating income at the lower end of its most recent guidance of a decline of between 15 and 20 percent, and that it would likely decrease investments in 2012.

The retail giant reported a sales increase in 2011 of 1.1 percent to 91.51 billion euros, or $117.1 billion at current exchange, supported by its activities in emerging markets, notably in South America. Fourth-quarter revenues fell 1 percent to 24.15 billion, or $30.89 billion, a decrease Carrefour attributed to a drop in discretionary spending in Europe and China, as reported.

Carrefour is due to report 2011 profits, as well as further details on plans for 2012, on March 8. Carrefour denied as recently as November that Olofsson would soon be replaced. It is understood that Blue Capital, the investment fund owned by Groupe Arnault and Colony Capital and the largest shareholder in Carrefour, had grown impatient with Olofsson, a former Nestlé executive, and began courting Plassat.

LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and Blue Capital chief Bernard Arnault recently built up his stake in Carrefour. Blue Capital now controls around 16 percent of the share capital and 22 percent of the voting rights.

Plassat, 62, started his career with French grocer Casino Group, and has also held positions with Carrefour and Pryca before joining Vivarte in 2004. Vivarte is the parent of chains including Naf Naf, Kookai, Andre, Minelli and Caroll.

Separately on Monday, Vivarte said Plassat’s longtime number two, Antoine Metzger, would take the management helm. Metzger, 58, joined Vivarte in 2000 after a long career at PPR’s Redcats and stints at Xerox and Bossard Consultants.

Also, Olofsson said Pierre Bouchut, Carrefour’s executive director, growth markets, was leaving the group, and that he would supervise the zone pending the appointment of a successor. Bouchut had been Carrefour’s chief financial officer, but was replaced last September.