Byline: Mark Tosh

NEW YORK — Continuing to reorganize its senior management, Kmart Corp. Wednesday named Charles Chinni, former president of home goods merchandising at Macy’s East, its top merchant.
The discounter established a five-executive team to oversee the operations of its core discount store business and announced that Joseph R. Thomas, executive vice president for Kmart discount stores, will retire Aug. 25 after 40 years with the company. Thomas will be an adviser until his retirement and relinquish his board seat March 1. He is the third executive vice president to leave Kmart in the last few months.
Chinni, who spent 30 years with Macy’s, will join Kmart later this month as executive vice president of merchandising and will oversee apparel, accessories, home decor, do-it-yourself and electronics merchandising. Chinni left Macy’s due to its merger with Federated Department Stores. He succeeds Donald W. Keeble, executive vice president, who will focus on operations and oversee Kmart’s 2,400 discount stores, real estate, construction and human resources.
Keeble and Chinni are members of Kmart’s new “platform team,” five executives responsible for developing and implementing strategy. Also on the team are Marvin P. Rich, executive vice president of strategic planning, finance and administration; Kenneth W. Watson, executive vice president of marketing and product development, and Ronald J. Floto, corporate executive vice president and president of Super Kmart Centers.
“The U.S. Kmart executive platform team will report directly to me so that we can develop, implement and execute our strategies more productively,” Joseph E. Antonini, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.
Antonini, who relinquished the chairman’s title last month, said the team approach would help Kmart “build a stronger and more effective infrastructure” to support its stores and improve operations.
Some observers said the creation of this team could indicate Kmart has called off its search for a number-two executive, and that Antonini had solidified his position for the foreseeable future. Barry Bryant, an analyst at Ladenburg, Thalmann & Co., said he believes the management changes insure that Antonini will continue in his role for the next year or two.
“I think they are an improvement, but they’re a small improvement in a company with big problems,” he said.
Joseph Ronning, an analyst at Brown Bros. Harriman, said he believes significant changes are “absolutely necessary” at Kmart, and Wednesday’s moves signal that those changes are going to be made.
“I think what you’re seeing is a changing of the guard and a cleaning out of the old regime,” he said. “Whether they’re successful or not remains to be seen.”