Lots of Questions, but One Certainty: Super-Sol Needs a Revamp

According to a former retail executive, 'Mainly in light of the social protest, Super-Sol's challenge is efficiency, efficiency and efficiency.'

At 9 P.M. on Sunday night, the media began publishing reports that Super-Sol CEO and President Effie Rosenhaus had resigned at a board meeting that evening. The astonishment only grew with the news that acting executive Richard Hunter was also leaving. In the background were expectations that the company's third-quarter financials wouldn't be pretty.

Super-Sol sent an official announcement to the stock exchange at 10:30 P.M. In Rosenhaus' place would be a man who wasn't very well known, VP-operations Itzik Abercohen. Plus, executive salaries were being cut 25%.

Richard Hunter - Nir Keidar - 29112011
Nir Keidar

The first big question: Did they quit or were they forced out? Super-Sol repeated that the two had chosen to depart. But sector sources couldn't ignore the signs - the late hour of the announcement, the hasty process, the financials, the fact that Abercohen would be stepping in within a month without an overlap period. And if Rosenhaus was leaving, his obvious replacement would have been Hunter.

So why was IDB Group Chairman Nochi Dankner's romance with Rosenhaus and Hunter over? The financials? The failed attempt to sell Super-Sol a few weeks ago? Or the indictment facing Rosenhaus for antitrust violations?

It's time for a new strategy at Super-Sol, and Rosenhaus and Dankner know this, said Tamir Shahar of consulting firm Czamanski & Ben Shahar. "During the social protests, consumers had two main targets: [Food manufacturer] Tnuva and Super-Sol. Zehavit Cohen is no longer Tnuva's chairwoman, and now Rosenhaus and Hunter won't be leading Super-Sol. Consumers changed, and it's not clear Rosenhaus and Hunter could handle this."

Some industry sources say Rosenhaus had wanted to go for a while, and that this was the last strike. The financials sealed his fate, said one source, adding that Hunter didn't fit in at the company and intended to leave.

Another surprise was the choice of an heir. No one would have predicted that Abercohen, a former career officer, was next in line for the job. But one thing is certain - there are no similarities between him and Rosenhaus. "While Rosenhaus is a marketer, Abercohen is an operations man. Rosenhaus has a magnetic personality and star qualities, while Abercohen is more introverted," said a source close to the company. "This means that Super-Sol is likely to be focusing on efficiency and prices."

This leads to the next question: Where is the company heading? It faces many challenges - the social protest, a slowing economy and increasing competition. "Super-Sol needs to reinvent itself," said Ben Sahar. "It needs [discount supermarket chain owner] Rami Levi or someone like him as CEO. Only someone who frequents stores and knows customers by their names can manage a company like Super-Sol." The protest marked Super-Sol as expensive, elitist and detached, Ben Sahar said. And the market has changed - now 50% of the market is discount stores, and Super-Sol and rival Blue Square (Mega ) can't compete with the private chains, he said.

According to a former retail executive, "Mainly in light of the social protest, Super-Sol's challenge is efficiency, efficiency and efficiency. "