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Big Shakeup At Staples

In what chairman/CEO Ron Sargent described as a “streamlining” of the organization, Staples is dismissing its North American retail chief Demos Parneros and combining his job with that of his B-to-B counterpart.

The changes, which come amid media reports of hundreds of layoffs at company headquarters, position the chain for a go-it-alone future should its merger with Office Depot derail.

Parneros, a nearly 30-year veteran of the No. 1 office supply chain, most recently served as president of North American stores and online. He will stay on through March 31, when Otis Pannell will assume his operational responsibilities as senior VP of U.S. retail operations.

Pannell will report to Shira Goodman, who currently heads the company’s North American commercial business but has been given responsibility for online, retail and B-to-B operations across the U.S. and Canada as North American operations president.

In addition, Staples Europe president and past chief financial officer John Wilson has been given the new title of international operations and transformation president, with responsibility for operations in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America and Asia, as well as the company’s strategy and “overall transformation efforts.”

Sargent said the new, simplified structure will speed decision-making, enable the company to focus on driving profitable growth, and help it compete in a rapidly evolving marketplace, whether or not its planned acquisition of second-place Office Depot goes through amid regulatory and investor resistance.

Along with the changes at the top came reports by Fortune and The Boston Globe of hundreds of senior- and junior-level layoffs at corporate headquarters, in what one unnamed source described as “a bloodbath.” The layoffs were neither confirmed nor denied by Staples.

The “streamlining” follows lower third-quarter sales and earnings, due in part to some 230 store closings since 2014, and the passing in November of Staples co-founder Thomas Stemberg.