UPDATE: April 20, 2021: BJ's Wholesale Club has named Bob Eddy as president and CEO, who will join the company's board of directors. Eddy has been filling the top slot since the untimely death of Lee Delaney earlier this month. Laura Felice, who joined BJ's in 2016 and most recently served as senior vice president and controller, has filled Eddy's former role as chief financial officer.
The club retailer also made two other executive appointments. Paul Cichocki, BJ's executive vice president of membership, analytics and business transformation, has been named chief commercial officer and will oversee merchandising, membership and analytics. Bill Werner, senior vice president with strategic planning and investor relations, has been named executive vice president of strategy and development and will lead BJ's market expansion as well as strategic initiatives aimed at boosting value for members and shareholders.
- Lee Delaney, president and CEO of BJ’s Wholesale Club, passed away unexpectedly last week due to presumed natural causes, the company announced Friday. He was 49.
- Bob Eddy, the company’s chief administrative and financial officer, has assumed the top role on an interim basis.
- “Lee was a brilliant and humble leader who cared deeply for his colleagues, his family and his community,” Christopher Baldwin, BJ’s former CEO and executive chairman of its board of directors, said in a statement. “We extend our most heartfelt condolences and sympathy to his family, especially his wife and two children.”
Delaney, who joined BJ’s as chief growth officer in 2016 and became CEO last February, had charted a long-term growth trajectory for the wholesale club, and by all accounts had successfully steered the company through a challenging pandemic period.
Previously, he helped guide BJ’s to a return to the public markets in 2018 and was named president in 2019. Upon his elevation to the CEO role early last year, he laid out a clear and decisive plan for the company.
“Our priority is clear: We must grow faster,” he said during his first earnings call last March. “We'll do this by investing more aggressively into growth opportunities and accelerating those areas of our transformation that are delivering results.”
Delaney embraced the company’s recent momentum in digital during a key period. Store pickup scaled to all BJ’s locations under his watch, helping power triple-digit gains in the channel. Membership renewal rates also grew while Delaney was at the helm, and the company pushed the accelerator on store growth, with a view beyond the core East Coast markets where BJ’s operates.
In grocery, Delaney helped BJ’s embrace high demand for food and beverages, particularly fresh items, during the pandemic while also rationalizing its assortment. In his introductory earnings call, Delaney noted BJ’s carried too many products in categories like pasta sauce, and said the company would pare back while adding more key general merchandise items.
Although BJ’s faced stiff competition from competitors Costco and Sam’s Club, Delaney saw a bright future for the company as a nimble and differentiated player. The investment community responded positively to his vision.
“Through his talent appointments and strategic initiatives, we believe he positioned [BJ's] well for a multi-year period of sustained topline and margin expansion driven by new member adds, improved assortment, and a return to unit growth,” Jefferies analyst Stephanie Wissink wrote in a note on Friday.
BJ’s noted it has a succession plan in place, and Wissink wrote that in a call last week, the chain's leadership said it expected to name a successor to Delaney shortly. Eddy, the company’s interim CEO, joined BJ’s in 2007 and has been chief financial officer since 2011. He assumed the role of chief administrative officer in 2018. Baldwin served as BJ’s CEO for nearly five years and currently works as managing director at CVC Partners in addition to his board duties at BJ’s.