Marsh CEO Kelley quits for job in New England

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Marsh Supermarkets CEO Joe Kelley resigned Tuesday, and the Fishers-based chain launched a search for its third chief executive in a little more than a year.

Kelley, a veteran of New York-based Price Chopper Supermarkets who took the helm at Marsh in May 2011, left to become president of the New England division of Stop & Shop, a 375-store grocery chain owned by Dutch food giant Ahold.

Marsh named Chief Operating Officer Bill Holsworth, who joined the company in 2006, as its interim CEO.

Florida-based Sun Capital Partners, which owns Marsh, has launched a national search to select a new leader for the chain of 70 Marsh stores and 26 MainStreet Markets in Indiana and Ohio, the statement said.

Marsh has struggled to restore market share it has lost over the years to its primary rival, Kroger Co., along with newer grocery offerings from the likes of Walmart, Meijer and Target. At last check, Kroger had local market share of 27.5 percent, compared to Marsh's 16.5-percent share.

Sun, which acquired the floundering supermarket chain in 2006, tried to sell it a few years ago but couldn't find a buyer. That's when it brought in Kelley, who told IBJ for a September 2011 story that turning around Marsh was a three- to six-year project.

Kelley launched a new competitive pricing strategy and plotted a revamp of the chain's Fresh Idea loyalty program. He vowed to spend $60 million over three years to build up to 10 new stores and remodel several more. He also hired another former Price Chopper exec, David Siegel, in the newly created position of senior vice president of merchandising and marketing strategic initiatives.

In January, Kelley joined Mayor Greg Ballard to announce the chain's plans to build the first new Marsh store since 2004, as the anchor of an $85 million mixed-use development bounded by Michigan Street, Capitol Avenue, Vermont Street and Indiana Avenue.

It appears the company still plans to build the downtown store. Holsworth, the interim CEO, in the statement said he looks forward to implenting "very strong growth plans for the future, including a new state-of-the-art store we are building in downtown Indianapolis."

Holsworth previously held CEO positions with Lowe’s Food Stores in North Carolina, Finast Supermarket ST in Ohio, and S&H Green Stamps in New York City.

Kelley replaced Frank Lazaran, who left Marsh in April 2011 after a five-year stint as CEO.

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