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Smith Retires As Stater Bros. Chairman, Names Successor

Smith Stater Bros.

San Bernardino, California-based Stater Bros. Markets has announced that Phil Smith will retire as board chairman for Stater Bros. Holdings, effective immediately.

CEO Pete Van Helden has been appointed chairman, and Sean Varner, managing partner of Varner & Brandt, has been appointed vice chairman. Smith will remain on the board. 

Smith’s career at Stater Bros. has spanned more than three decades. He began at the company in 1987 as a controller and was promoted to VP and controller in 1998. He held various finance and accounting leadership roles, serving as the company’s EVP of finance, CFO and chief accounting officer before his retirement in 2012. 

Afterward, Smith stayed on as a consultant at the request of late Executive Chairman Jack H. Brown. In 2016, after Brown’s passing, Smith was asked to serve as chairman. During his tenure, Stater Bros. saw itself grow from about 100 stores to more than 170 throughout Southern California.

“It has been a privilege and honor to serve the Stater Bros. team and our loyal customers over the last 35 years,” Smith said. “With Pete and Sean’s leadership, the company will be in capable hands, and I look forward to seeing them take Stater Bros. to the next level.”

Van Helden joined Stater Bros. Markets as president and COO in 2013. In 2016, he was appointed to the position of CEO by Brown. In 2021, he was appointed vice chairman of the board of directors. Van Helden will continue to serve as CEO.

Varner has more than 25 years of legal and business expertise focusing on corporate and business law, real estate transactions, development and land use, finance and technology. In 2021, Varner was appointed to serve as corporate secretary and general counsel of Stater Bros. Holdings.

“On behalf of the board and Stater Bros. employees, I would like to thank Phil for his years of dedicated service to the company, our teammates and our customers,” Van Helden said. “We wish him the best as he embarks on the next journey in his life.”

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