Office Depot CEO Steps Down

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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 lower sales.

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.


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