Sprouts CEO Resigns, Stock Tumbles

Sprouts Farmers Market shares took a big tumble today as the grocery chain announced a coming change in their leadership. This week, Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers Market (NASDAQ: SFM) said that current CEO Amin Maredia has a plan to leave the company by the beginning of next year to “pursue other interest”.  This is a complicated departure, however, as Maredia also serves on the Board of Directors.

Apparently, the company also plans to have Maredia serve as an advisor, for an as-yet-unspecified period of time, in order to aid the company in the leadership transition.

Maredia took the chair as CEO of Sprouts since August of 2015, taking a seat on the board in February of 2016.  However, he first joined the company as Chief Financial Officer in August of 2011.  Prior to working with Sprouts, Maredia served in several financial executive positions. For the five years prior to joining Sprouts, for example, he was with Burger King Corporation, which includes nearly two years (March 2009 to February 2011) as Vice President of Finance for North and Latin America, and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Treasurer from July 2005 to March 2009.

Since the grocer has not named a replacement, there is going to be a period of time where they do not have proper leadership.  The company has noted that current President and Chief Operations Officer Jim Nielsen will serve as acting co-interim CEO with Chief Financial Officer Brad Lukow, but that is only temporary, of course.

Sprouts make sure to note that Nielsen and Lukow have several years of retail and management experience beneath them. Nielsen has actually been part of Sprouts since April 2011 as COO, taking the title of president in August of 2015. He also served as President for Henry’s Farmers Markets. Lukow has been CFO for Sprouts since March of 2016 but was also an executive vice president and CFO for Shoppers Drug Mart (the largest drugstore chain in Canada).

In a statement, Maredia said, “It has been an enormous privilege to have been part of the Sprouts team during this incredible period in the company’s history over the past eight years.  As I transition, it is comforting knowing that Sprouts is well-positioned with a strong management team for robust growth and sustained success.”

Unfortunately, it seems not everyone shares his confidence and comfort.  SFM shares were down as low as 13 percent in midday on Friday.