2 IN. DI LETTURA
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. retailer Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD.O) said its chief executive Aylwin Lewis will leave the company, effective Feb 2, the latest in a shake-up of the firm that operates the Sears and Kmart chain of stores.
W. Bruce Johnson, executive vice president, supply chain and operations, was appointed interim chief executive, the company said in a statement.
The move comes only days after Sears Holdings, which is controlled by hedge fund manager Edward Lampert, said it would separate business units and simplify the way they are managed in a bid to improve results and reverse recent profit declines.
"The board has determined that now is the right time to put in place new leadership to take the company forward," Lampert said on Monday in a statement.
Sears Holdings was formed with the 2005 merger of Kmart and Sears, but it has struggled to win customers from a host of competitors, and now faces an economic slowdown that has hurt sales of home goods such as appliances and tools.
Earlier this month, Sears warned that fourth-quarter profits could be less than one-half those of year-ago levels, and said its holiday sales fell as the crumbling U.S. housing market and competition hurt business.
Sales at stores open at least a year have fallen at both Kmart and Sears for the past seven quarters, and Sears' shares are now down about 49 percent from a high of $195.18 reached in April 2007.
Sears said Johnson will oversee the five types of business units created under its new decentralized structure, and Lampert will lead the board's search for a permanent chief executive officer.
Reporting by Nicole Maestri and Franklin Paul in New York and Sweta Singh in Bangalore; Editing by Derek Caney and Dave Zimmerman