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Office Depot stock climbs on choice of AutoZone chairman for top post

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. -- Office Depot Inc., the nation's second-largest office supply retailer, hired a former auto parts executive yesterday to be its new chairman and chief executive, seeking to keep the momentum gained since his predecessor's departure.

Steve Odland, who had been the chief executive and chairman of AutoZone Inc. since January 2001, replaces Bruce Nelson, who was pressured to resign in October after four years leading Office Depot.

Office Depot shares rose more than 8 percent in trading yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange, while AutoZone shares fell nearly 13 percent even as it moved quickly to name replacements for Odland.

''Steve's track record in delivering strong operating performance and excellent financial results in challenging business environments makes him the ideal person to lead our company to the next level," said Neil R. Austrian, an Office Depot board member who had served as interim chairman and chief executive since Nelson's departure. ''With his background in marketing and merchandising, his demonstrated focus on building loyalty through customer service and satisfaction, and an unparalleled record in the creation of shareholder value, we could not have found a better fit for our company."

Odland, 46, called Office Depot ''an excellent franchise." Before AutoZone, Odland was chief operating officer of Ahold USA Inc., a leading supermarket retailer; president of the food service division at Sara Lee Corp., and an executive at Quaker Oats Co.

''My focus will be on driving profitable growth by exceeding the expectations of our customers and building shareholder value by making Office Depot an industry leader in efficiency and productivity," Odland said in a statement. ''It's a great opportunity and I'm ready to get started."

Office Depot, which has annual sales of almost $14 billion, has 969 stores in North America. Internationally, it owns 78 stores in 14 countries and operates another 153 stores under licensing arrangements. It is second to Framingham-based Staples Inc. in office supply retailing.

Memphis based AutoZone disclosed the appointment of its founder, J.R. Hyde III, as nonexecutive chairman of the board of directors on an interim basis, and William C. Rhodes III, previously executive vice president of store operations and commercial, as president and chief executive.

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