University of Southern California

Former Stater Bros. President and COO to Join USC Food Industry Management Program
Jim Lee to Join Faculty Team
July 9, 2013 • by News at Marshall

The USC Marshall School of Business announced that Jim Lee, recently retired president and chief operating officer (COO) of Stater Bros. Markets, will join the faculty team for the USC Food Industry Management (FIM), a program produced in partnership with the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC) for over 55 years. Lee will team up with Bob Hermanns, director of food industry programs at USC Marshall, and a graduate of the Food Industry Management (FIM) Program in 1967, to co-facilitate the planning, leadership and organizational priorities curriculum for the Class of 2014.

Lee, an alumnus of the FIM Program who also holds an MBA from USC Marshall, has more than 40 years of experience in the supermarket industry. The FIM Program recently honored Lee by naming him the Food Industry Executive of the Year for 2010.

"Jim Lee brings a wealth of professional experience that will greatly benefit our FIM Program students," said Hermanns. "As an alumnus, he also demonstrates the effectiveness of the education we provide."

The partnership between WAFC and USC has produced many top industry executives: in addition to Lee, they include Karl Schroeder, president of Safeway Northern California Division; Sue Klug, CMO of Unified Grocers; and Kevin Davis, CEO and president of Bristol Farms, and Greg Longstreet, president of Farmer John.

"We are thrilled that Jim Lee is joining the faculty team,"said Carole Christianson, COO of WAFC. "He is a great addition to an already world-class program."

Lee began his grocery career in 1972 with Ralphs Grocery Company in Southern California, where he was employed for 25 years. Having worked his way up from clerk’s helper to group vice president of the central division, he was responsible for the highest sales volume in the company.

From 1996 to 2001, Lee was president and chief operating officer of Wild Oats Markets, Inc., then the second-largest chain of natural foods supermarkets in North America, with annual sales of more than $1 billion. Lee helped the Boulder, Colorado-based company go public and oversaw a 600 percent increase in sales.

Lee joined Stater Bros. Markets in 2002 as group senior vice president of retail operations and was promoted to president and COO in 2006, when he assumed overall responsibility for the company’s day-to-day operations. Headquartered in San Bernardino and founded in 1936, Stater Bros. is a Fortune 500 company and the largest privately owned supermarket chain based in Southern California, with nearly $4 billion in annual sales.

Among Lee’s professional awards and distinctions are: the 2011 Humanitarian Award from the California Conference for Equality and Justice, the 2013 Hall of Achievement Award from the California Grocers Association Educational Foundation and the Spirit of Life Award from the City of Hope National Medical Center.

Lee is a Director Emeritus of the WAFC and was President in 2008. He is also a member of the advisory board of the City of Hope Food Industries Circle, a vice president on the Board of Directors for Topco Associates LLC, a past board member of the Food Marketing Institute and former trustee for the California Grocers Association Educational Foundation.

In addition to his USC Marshall education, Lee graduated from the UCLA Executive Program and earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from Azusa Pacific University.

About the Food Industry Management Program and Western Association of Food Chains:
The Food Industry Management (FIM) Program, part of USC Marshall’s Executive Education programs, has a worldwide reputation for developing managers with effective analytical, leadership and communication skills. Its faculty members have extensive academic, business and consulting experience; they have taught food industry executives and managers and consulted with Fortune 100 and small entrepreneurial companies in food industry retailing, manufacturing and supplier companies.

The Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC) has partnered with the University of Southern California on the FIM Program since 1958. Founded by Los Angeles-area retailers in 1921, WAFC is a non-profit organization comprised of senior executives from major food retail and wholesale companies in 14 western states, whose primary mission is to provide advanced education for food industry employees.

About the USC Marshall School of Business
Consistently ranked among the nation's premier schools, USC Marshall is internationally recognized for its emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation, social responsibility and path-breaking research. Located in the heart of Los Angeles, one of the world's leading business centers and the U.S. gateway to the Pacific Rim, Marshall offers its 5,700-plus undergraduate and graduate students a unique world view and impressive global experiential opportunities. With an alumni community spanning 123 countries, USC Marshall students join a worldwide community of thought leaders who are redefining the way business works.