Jim Lee, recently retired president and COO of Stater Bros. Markets, will join the faculty team for the USC Marshall School of Business’ Food Industry Management (FIM) program, produced in partnership with the Western Association of Food Chains (WAFC) for more than 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 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; 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 Co. in Southern California, where he was employed for 25 years. Having worked his way up from clerk’s helper to group VP of the central division, he was responsible for the highest sales volume in the company.
From 1996-2001, Lee was president and COO 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, Colo.-based company go public and oversaw a 600 percent increase in sales.
Lee joined Stater Bros. Markets in 2002 as group SVP 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, Calif., 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: 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 also is a member of the advisory board of the City of Hope Food Industries Circle, a VP 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 degree in history from Azusa Pacific University.