The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) yesterday announced that Ronald W. Burkle has resigned from the Board of Directors and from his position as chairman of the Board’s Executive Committee.

“The merger agreement between The Kroger Co. and Fred Meyer, Inc. was signed more than two years ago,” Mr. Burkle said. “The successful integration of the two companies is progressing well ahead of schedule and I am fully confident it will continue. I am proud to have helped create the finest company in the industry and feel it is now time to concentrate on other activities.”

Joseph A. Pichler, Kroger chairman and chief executive officer, praised Mr. Burkle’s service. “The Kroger Board of Directors is grateful for the contributions that Ron Burkle made during his tenure on our Board. His guidance was of particular importance in the completion of the complex merger between Kroger and Fred Meyer and the successful integration that followed.”

Mr. Burkle is a resident of Los Angeles, California. He began his career in the supermarket industry at the age of 13 and has worked in every position in the grocery business, from box boy to CEO and Chairman.

Mr. Burkle is the managing partner of The Yucaipa Companies, a private investment firm. Yucaipa has completed numerous acquisitions in the supermarket industry nationwide, including Fred Meyer, Inc., which was later combined with Ralphs Grocery Company, Quality Food Centers (QFC) and Smith’s Food & Drug Stores.

He is a member of the Board of Kaufman & Broad and Occidental Petroleum. Mr. Burkle also serves as a Trustee of the National Urban League, The Ralphs/Food 4 Less Foundation, The Fred Meyer Foundation, The Carter Center, The Kennedy Center and The Getty Center. He also is chairman of DARE and serves on the boards of numerous other civic organizations.

Headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, Kroger is the nation’s largest retail grocery chain. At the end of the third quarter, the Company operated 2,343 supermarkets and multi-department stores in 31 states under nearly two dozen banners, including Kroger, Fred Meyer, Ralphs, Smith’s, King Soopers, Dillon, Fry’s, City Market, Food 4 Less and Quality Food Centers. Kroger also operates 787 convenience stores, 396 fine jewelry stores, 71 supermarket fuel centers and 42 food processing plants.