After a nearly three-month search, Kmart named Mr. Hall chairman, president and CEO, succeeding Joseph Antonini. Donald Perkins relinquished his post as chairman, but remains on Kmart's board.
Now Mr. Hall needs to tackle the persistent problems of the troubled retailer-including reducing out-of-stocks and improving customer service-as well as fending off the competition, like Wal-Mart Stores and his former discount stomping grounds Dayton Hudson Corp.'s Target Stores.
"In our stores .... everyone deserves to be treated with courtesy, to shop in a clean and orderly store, and to find basic and advertised merchandise in stock," said Mr. Hall while addressing Kmart associates last week.
Analysts said that Mr. Hall has the right retailing credentials for the job even though he isn't a huge name and his discount experience is more than a decade old.
After stints at Montgomery Ward & Co., Singer Stores and B. Dalton Bookseller, he moved to chairman-CEO of Target in 1981. While chairman-CEO of Grand Union Co. from 1984-89, he is credited with the food retailer's turnaround and most recently started up the Museum Co., a specialty store that sells museum reproductions.
According to analysts, Mr. Hall's strong suits include business management, business strategy, merchandising and marketing.
"When he took over Grand Union, it was an underfinanced, undercapitalized operation .*.*. He quickly rebuilt share and rebuilt it properly," said Burt Flickinger III, a management consultant.
When Mr. Hall took over Grand Union, the company had just posted a $115 million loss and had shed 400 stores. After the first year, the company turned profitable.
Some analysts believe that Mr. Hall's secret weapon could be his success in New England markets with retailers like Grand Union.
"Mr. Hall uniquely knows the Northeast and New England markets," said Mr. Flickinger, adding that expertise could give Kmart an advantage in the Northeast over Wal-Mart, which has unsuccessfully been trying to move into the area for five years.
Another strong suit that made Mr. Hall attractive to Kmart was his ability to build teams. "Mr. Hall works well with a team and he is not a one-man show," said Frederick Marx, president of Marx Layne & Co., a Farmington Hills, Mich., consultancy.
BORN: Sept. 4, 1938, Oklahoma.
EDUCATION: Attended Southern Methodist University, Dallas. Did not earn a degree, but is a graduate of Advanced Management Training Program at Harvard University, 1977.
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Various positions at Montgomery Ward, 1956-70; VP, Singer Stores, 1970-73; president-CEO, B. Dalton Bookseller, 1974-81; chairman-CEO, Dayton Hudson Corp.'s Target Stores, 1981-84; chairman-CEO, Grand Union Co., 1984-89; chairman-CEO, The Museum Co., 1989-1995.
PERSONAL: Married to Janet Phillips; one son and one daughter.