The Pantry's Grocery Gambit

C-store chain under fire for lacking in-channel leadership nominates supermarket exec to board

The Pantry Kanagroo Express Thomas W. "Tad" Dickson

Thomas W. "Tad" Dickson

CARY, N.C. -- Seeking to augment its current board of directors with an executive possessing broad retail experience and specific regional knowledge ahead of a group of "dissident" investors that has put up its own nominees, The Pantry Inc. has announced that its board has nominated a new independent director, Thomas W. "Tad" Dickson, former CEO of Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc., for election at the company's 2014 annual meeting of stockholders to be held on March 13, 2014.

As reported in a 21st Century Smoke/CSP Daily News Flash, officials at The Pantry are facing an attempt by Concerned Pantry Shareholders (CPS), a group led by JCP Investment Management LLC and Lone Star Value Management LLC--together owning approximately 2% of The Pantry shares--to install new directors. CPS announced its intention to seek the election of what it says are three independent, highly qualified director candidates.

CPS is a group "dedicated to maximizing shareholder value and improving corporate governance at Pantry," it said.

Before Wednesday's announcement of Dickson's nomination, CPS said The Pantry leadership has failed to hire someone within the convenience channel to an executive position. Grocery industry veteran Dennis Hatchell was named president and CEO of The Pantry effective March 2012. He succeeded Edwin Holman, who had served as interim CEO since Terrance Marks resigned as CEO effective in Oct. 2011. Holman remained in his position as chairman. Hatchell previously served as vice chairman of Alex Lee Inc., Hickory, N.C., a holding company for Lowe's Food Stores Inc., Merchants Distributors Inc. and Institution Food House.

Dickson's nomination does not address that criticism. He most recently served as CEO of Matthews, N.C.-based Harris Teeter, a leading regional supermarket chain in the southeastern and mid-Atlantic United States, from Feb. 1997 up to the company's sale to The Kroger Co. in Jan. 2014, and as chairman of its board from March 2006 to Jan. 2014.

If elected, he will bring to The Pantry nearly two decades of operational and management experience in the supermarket industry, the company said, including more than 15 years as a public company director, and possesses broad supermarket and real-estate knowledge, particularly in The Pantry's core geographies.