Ex-PepsiCo GC Heads to Delhaize Group
The Brussels-based Delhaize Group named Maura Abeln Smith as its next top lawyer. As of May 2, she began serving as the global food retailers general counsel, executive vice president, and general secretary.
Smith is now tasked with managing the companys legal and government affairs functions. She reports to CEO Pierre-Olivier Beckers and will be working in the companys Belgium office.
Globally, Delhaize Group runs approximately 3,500 stores and has more than 100,000 employees. U.S. subsidiary Delhaize America is one of the largest supermarket operators on the East Coast, with retail brands including Hannaford Bros. Co. and Food Lion.
Smith brings more than three decades of corporate legal experience to the table for Delhaize. A protégé of General Electric Companys Ben Heineman Jr., she most recently served as PepsiCo Inc.s general counsel, secretary, and EVPgovernment affairs. Smith parted ways with the soft drink maker last summer, a little over a year after she joined the company.
In a two-part 2011 interview with CorpCounsel.com, Smith said that her success in the law has its roots in her parents encouraging her to choose a college major in something more practical than English, her first choice.
At the time1973, 1974they envisioned my highest career aspiration would be to be a teacher of some sort, said Smith. And they thought that being an English teacher wasnt as potentially lucrative as doing something else. They encouraged me to at least major in a hard science or economics so that I would have a better opportunity when I graduated to get a job.
They may have underestimated their daughters long-term potential, but the advice proved to be sound. Smith graduated from Vassar College with a bachelors degree in economics. One of the first female Rhodes Scholars, she earned a graduate degree in economics from Oxford University.
Smith said that the scholarship changed the trajectory of her life. The prestigious award led to a full scholarship to the University of Miami School of Law and, she said, ultimately helped her stand out in 1990 when Heinemanalso a Rhodes Scholarwas building his in-house team at GE.
At Heinemans behest, at age 36, Smith left a partnership with Baker & MacKenzie to take her first in-house job, serving as general counsel of GEs plastics division. She later spent five years as general counsel of Owens Corning and eight years at the helm of International Paper Companys legal department before joining PepsiCo.
The new Delhaize Group general counsel replaces Michael Waller, who has been executive vice president, GC, and secretary since 2001. Hell stay on as EVP through the end of June.