Boca Raton, Fla. - Office Depot chairman/CEO Steve Odland will
leave the company Nov. 1 in a surprise resignation.
His departure after five years at the helm of the No. 2 office
supply chain was described in a statement as a "mutual agreement," and comes in
advance of a mixed third-quarter earnings report showing higher profits but
Lead board director Neil Austrian will serve as interim
chairman/CEO until an executive search firm can find a permanent successor.
Odland joined Office Depot in 2005 from AutoZone and brought a
measure of stability to the chain, which had seen three chief executives in
five years. He survived a proxy challenge in 2008 from a dissident shareholder,
and during his tenure helped achieve record revenues and profits for the
company, Austrian said.
"Now that the worst of the recession is behind us and margins are
improving, we believe that this is an appropriate time to seek new leadership
to make the most of the platform we have in place, return to sales growth,
improve financial performance and reinvigorate our franchise," Austrian said.
Odland's resignation follows that of OfficeMax president/CEO Sam Duncan, who will step down
three months ahead of schedule on Nov. 8, to be succeeded by former Aramark
Corp. executive Ravi Saligram.
Last week Odland and former chief financial officer Patricia
McKay also settled charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of
leaking earnings results to select analysts three years ago.
For its most recent fiscal third quarter ended Sept. 25, Office
Depot expects to report a 4 percent decline in net sales, to $2.9 billion, but will
show a $54 million profit that includes a significant tax settlement, compared
to a year-ago loss of $413 million.
Total operating expenses are expected to decrease by about 8
percent, or $72 million, and earnings before interest and taxes will likely increase
$2 million year over year to $20 million, the company said.