Albertson’s, the US supermarket chain, has announced the unexpected hiring of Felicia Thornton as its new chief financial officer.

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Thornton, at 37 a relative youngster for such a high profile role, will join Albertson’s from Kroger, where she is currently vice president, retail operations.

The appointment has taken the industry by surprise. Stephen Chick, an analyst with Prudential Securities, told the Financial Times newspaper that “she will have to prove herself and the task should be a challenge, given the turnaround situation at Albertson’s under new management.”

Larry Johnston is the man behind the appointment. Johnston joined Albertson’s as chairman and chief executive officer in April and has since announced a closure programme affecting 165 stores, as well as a 15-20% drop in managerial and administrative staff.

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