Office Depot names interim chief its permanent chairman, CEO

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Office Depot has named Neil Austrian its permanent chairman and CEO, the company said May 25. He had served as the Boca Raton, Fla.-based office supply retailer's interim leader since November 1, 2010. Austrian will replace Steven Odland, who resigned last October after more than five years with the company.

Austrian had also served as Office Depot's interim chairman and CEO from October 2004 to March 2005. He was also a director at the company since 1998, when it merged with Viking Office Products. Austrian had also worked as president and COO of the National Football League, managing director of investment bank Dillon Read and Co., and chairman and CEO of Showtime and The Movie Channel.

“Over his seven months at the helm, [Austrian] has had a profound effect on the company, its culture and its relationships with key stakeholders,” said Marty Evans, a member of Office Depot's board of directors who led the CEO search committee, in a statement. “He has already increased the talent level of the management team and taken the steps necessary to grow sales, leverage assets and build brands.”

Evans added that Austrian's “ability to focus on key initiatives, to energize associates and to drive performance led the board to re-think the decision to introduce a new leader at this time.”

Office Depot said in February that it will increase its marketing efforts to reverse fourth-quarter and full-year 2010 sales, which were down 3% and 4% respectively. The company also restructured its marketing teams in November, moving all its marketing professionals into one group, regardless of channel specialty.

An Office Depot representative could not be immediately reached for comment.

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