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Scott Will Succeed Skaggs at American Stores

Times Staff Writer

American Stores, the owner of the Alpha Beta and Lucky Stores chains, named a seasoned industry executive on Tuesday to succeed L. S. (Sam) Skaggs as chief executive.

Jonathan L. Scott, 58, a former chief executive of both the Albertson’s and A&P; grocery chains, now will head a company that has grown in the last year to become the nation’s largest supermarket operator.

Skaggs, who is widely credited with building American Stores from a regional drugstore operation into a 1,600-store supermarket and drug chain, recently reached the company’s mandatory retirement age of 65. He will remain as chairman of the Irvine firm and continue to serve on its board for at least four years, the company said.

“He’ll certainly be the coach,” Scott said. “We’ll be the quarterback.” Scott said Skaggs will continue to have a major--although gradually declining--role in decisions involving company strategy, while the new management team--headed by Scott--will have operational responsibility.

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The new chief executive is a close friend of Skaggs and an Idaho native who joined Boise-based Albertson’s supermarkets 33 years ago and later became its chief executive. Then he was wooed away by the A&P; chain. In 1980, he left A&P; and opened his own real estate development in Irving, Tex.

Scott joined American Stores in early 1987 and was named chairman and chief executive of the firm’s eastern subsidiary, American Superstores. He was also named vice chairman of American Stores that year.

The company noted that Skaggs and Scott have been business associates since 1962 and together pioneered the development of the nation’s first successful combination drug and food stores called Skaggs Albertson’s.

Shrewd Acquisitions

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Skaggs is known for his shrewd acquisitions and profitable asset sales. Earlier this year, American Stores paid $2.5 billion for the Lucky Stores chain. It plans to merge Lucky with American’s Alpha Beta stores and create the nation’s largest supermarket chain with 567 stores, but the consolidation has been held up since September by a court ruling.

Company executives said they are “hopeful” about winning a court fight with Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp about the merger, but said they would consider a “reasonable” settlement to end the battle.

The elevation of Scott ends an industry guessing game over who would succeed Skaggs. Industry insiders had targeted the front-runners as Scott and John M. Lillie, the 51-year-old chairman of Lucky Stores.

In an interview, Scott praised Lillie’s management expertise, but dodged questions about whether Lillie had been a contender.

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Scott’s appointment was one of several changes announced in a major management reshuffling by the parent company.

Victor L. Lund, 41, will continue as chief financial officer and also was elected as chief administrative officer. Alan D. Stewart was elected as American Stores’ president and chief operating officer.

Scott also said there is a “strong possibility” that American Stores will relocate its corporate headquarters to Salt Lake City, Utah, where the company had been based until it moved to Orange County in July.

Scott emphasized that the firm is pleased with its new structure, which includes a “holding company” headquarters and independent operational units. He said the company has decided against “the spinoffs and restructuring we were thinking about a few years ago.”

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