- Roman Heini has resigned as chairman of Lidl’s U.S. division, the company confirmed Tuesday. Heini’s departure from the supermarket chain was reported earlier by the German publication Lebensmittel Zeitung.
- Heini, a former senior executive at the U.K. unit of Lidl rival Aldi who was tapped to lead Lidl’s business in the United States in early 2019, is leaving the company “to pursue other professional interests and to spend more time with his family,” according to a statement Lidl sent to Grocery Dive.
- Lidl U.S. President and CEO Johannes Fieber, who arrived in 2018 after serving as CEO of Lidl Sweden, will lead the company’s efforts to broaden its presence in the American grocery market.
Heini’s decision to leave Lidl continues a string of executive-level changes at the company that has cast a shadow on the grocery chain’s efforts to gain traction in the United States.
An 18-year veteran of Aldi, Heini became chairman of Lidl's company’s budding U.S. business in March 2019. He replaced Michael Aranda, who shifted to new responsibilities with the international grocer’s European management board.
Fieber, who was named in May 2018 to replace Brendan Proctor as president and CEO of Lidl U.S., described Heini’s appointment to the chairmanship of the division as “a major step forward in positioning us for dynamic growth.”
But while the company crossed the 100-store milestone in May with Heini at the helm, it had originally hoped to reach that point by the end of 2018. Lidl has accelerated store expansion over the past year, and recently opened its first stores in Georgia and on Long Island, where it acquired 27 Best Market stores in late 2018.
Lidl’s slower-than-expected start in the United States has left it well behind Aldi, which has been operating on American shores since 1976 and rolled past the 2,000-store threshold this month. Aldi is spending a reported $5 billion on an expansion and renovation campaign and plans to open 70 more stores this year.
Lidl did not provide details about why Heini, who recently bought a home in Bethesda, Maryland, not far from the company’s U.S. headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, is leaving. “We appreciate Roman’s commitment and contributions to Lidl throughout his tenure, which have helped position Lidl for greater success in the future,” the company said in its statement.
In a message posted on LinkedIn, Heini said he sees a bright future ahead for Lidl in the United States.
“I trust you will understand that the decision to leave our company comes after much reflection on my personal goals, not just for my career, but most importantly, having recently lost my father, for my family,” he wrote. “It should in no way detract from my confidence in the future of Lidl US.”