Staples’ CEO Steps Down

Staples’ 14 year veteran CEO Ron Sargent has agreed to step down a few weeks after a federal judge put the kibosh on a merger deal that would have united Staples with rival Office Depot.

Sargent will remain on as chairman through the end of the fiscal year, but his term as CEO, which began in 2002 when he took over the helm from one of the business’s co-founders, will end at the firm’s annual shareholder meeting on June 14.

Shira Goodman, a long-term Staples … well, staple, will serve as interim CEO until a permanent successor can be found.

The retailer’s board and Sargent “mutually agreed” on the move, Staples said Tuesday.

The move is not directly predicated upon the merger loss. The Wall Street Journal reports that the decision to find a new CEO was made a few weeks before the ruling came down.

A Staples spokesman said the change was “both reflective of Ron’s desire to step down and right for the company. Today’s announcement is the culmination of discussions that have been going on for some time.”

The securities filing that accompanied the news indicated severance would be paid out under a  “qualified termination.” Sargent will continue to receive his salary and potential bonus for the current fiscal year, and then will receive payments totaling $4 million over 24 months, as well as health insurance and other benefits worth about $875,000.

Sargent’s replacement will take the head of an organization that has faced falling sales for year, with a nearly 50-percent reduction over the last year alone.

According to reports, the 2008 financial crisis marked a down dip in Staples’ business that it has never been able to recover from. The merger with Office Depot, which has faced similarly falling sales and waves of store closures, was thought to be the firm’s best hope of a way out.

Now, with that door permanently closed and with their CEO leaving, Staples’ future looks more unsure than ever.


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