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Fairway seeks CEO


Fairway Group Holdings' Herbert Ruetsch plans to retire after 15 years with the company, including the last two years as its CEO. Ruetsch will remain a special adviser to the company and continue to provide input into certain merchandising and product initiatives.

"Herb Ruetsch has helped lead Fairway through a major transformation from a small family business into an iconic, growing specialty food retailer serving some 20 million customer visits annually in the tri-state area. All of us at Fairway would like to thank Herb for his many contributions to our success," said Charles Santoro, executive chairman. "Bill Sanford, our Interim CEO, brings continuity, strong leadership and organizational skills, and has also played a very important role in Fairway's growth, development and success during his last five years at Fairway, including his previous roles as CFO and most recently as president."

William Sanford, who has served as the company’s president since April 2012, will assume the role of Fairway's interim CEO. He joined the company in October 2008 as chief administrative officer and served as CFO from September 2011 to December 2012. From 1998 to June 2008, he held various senior positions, including CFO, president and chief operating officer with Interline Brands, a New York Stock Exchange listed company. He has more than 25 years of experience in the wholesale distribution field, having also held senior positions with Airgas and MSC Industrial Direct.

Fairway also announced the promotions of Kevin McDonnell to co-president and chief operating officer and Edward Arditte to co-president and CFO.

"Kevin and Ed work very closely together and these promotions are designed to bolster and enhance operations and productivity initiatives as Fairway prepares to roll out its production center and important new store openings later this calendar year,” added Santoro. “Kevin has worked at Fairway for the past six years and has more than 30 years of experience in food retailing. Kevin will be responsible for all merchandising and store operations and Ed will assume responsibility for all other corporate functions. We believe that our senior leadership team is extraordinarily strong, focused and determined and that these changes help take us to the next level in our organization's growth and in enhancing our ability to execute to very demanding goals."

McDonnell has served as the company’s SVP and chief operating officer since April 2012. Prior to this, he was chief merchandising officer from August 2007 to April 2012. Previously, he served in various capacities at the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company for more than 27 years, most recently as SVP of sales and merchandising.

Arditte has served as EVP and CFO of Fairway since December 2012. He has more than 25 years of finance and operating experience with large, multi-industry companies including Tyco International, where he served from May 2003 to May 2010 as a SVP with responsibility for strategy, investor relations and communications. Immediately prior to joining Tyco International, he served as the CFO of BancBoston Capital. He also spent 16 years at Textron, where he served in a variety of management roles including VP and treasurer and CFO of a major operating division.

Fairway's board of directors plans to search for a CEO in the near future, and will consider qualified individuals in and outside of Fairway.

The announcements come following the company’s third quarter results for the period ended Dec. 29, 2013. The company reported a net sales increase of 22.9% to $205.7 million from $167.3 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2013. Net sales growth in the quarter was driven primarily by the new stores opened subsequent to Sept. 29, 2012 and the net sales from the Red Hook, Brooklyn, location, which was closed for the last nine weeks of the third quarter in the prior year.

"During the quarter, we grew our revenues and market share, made progress on a number of long-term margin initiatives and enhanced the visibility of our real estate pipeline,” said Santoro about the company’s financial results. “While our business faced a number of headwinds during the quarter including a tougher comparison over last year, the compressed holiday shopping season and a generally softer retail backdrop, we remain excited about our long-term growth prospects. We have also strengthened our senior leadership structure, and announced several important promotions to enhance operations and productivity initiatives as Fairway evolves to the next level of growth and scale. Fairway's differentiated food retail platform remains well positioned to capture incremental market share as we continue to expand our store base and capitalize on the shifting consumer focus towards healthy living and value."

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