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Kroger unveils succession plan for secretary, general counsel

Kroger announced its succession plan for secretary and general counsel. Paul Heldman, 62, a 31-year Kroger veteran who has been serving as the company's general counsel since 1989, secretary since 1992 and EVP since 2006, plans to retire in spring of 2014.

"Paul's contributions to our company during his 31-year career are quite remarkable," stated David Dillon, Kroger's chairman and CEO. "He has been a trusted adviser and exceptional leader, providing outstanding guidance for our leadership team when we needed it most. We wish Paul, his wife Debbie and their family all the best."

Christine Wheatley, 42, Kroger's VP, senior counsel and assistant secretary, will be named secretary and general counsel, effective upon the retirement of Heldman next year. The company expects its board to elect Wheatley secretary and general counsel at a future board meeting.

Heldman, a graduate of Boston University and the University of Cincinnati College of Law, joined Kroger in 1982 as an attorney in the company's law department, where he focused on labor and employment law. He held leadership roles of increasing responsibility, including senior counsel, assistant secretary, VP, group VP and SVP before assuming his current roles.

As general counsel, Heldman worked alongside other leaders to help Kroger avoid a leveraged buyout attempt in 1988 and to implement a restructuring and recapitalization effort that allowed Kroger to remain a public company while rewarding shareholders and expanding the availability of stock options to associates; and he was a key leader on the team that executed Kroger's merger with Fred Meyer in 1999, Kroger reported.

Heldman is also a member of the board of directors of CenterBank, Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy and the Ohio Innocence Project; and he serves as a trustee for the Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati.

Wheatley, a graduate of the University of Notre Dame and The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, joined Kroger in 2008 as corporate counsel. She became senior counsel in 2011 and VP in 2012. Before joining Kroger, Wheatley was engaged in the private practice of law for 11 years, most recently as a partner at Porter Wright Morris & Arthur in Cincinnati.

"Christine has been instrumental in leading Kroger's business law group as well as the company's legal affairs," stated Rodney McMullen, Kroger's president and COO. "Her passion and dedication to our company is evident in all that she does, and she will be a great asset to our senior leadership team. We thank Paul for his many years of dedicated service and for developing such a strong succession plan."

As secretary and general counsel, Wheatley will report directly to McMullen, who will become Kroger's CEO in January.