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Paul Sobey, pictured, has announced plans to retire. Marc Poulin will take over as head of Sobeys later this year.

Empire Co. Ltd., the Nova Scotia-based conglomerate that owns Sobeys, has plucked its new leader from the supermarket chain.

Sobeys president and CEO Marc Poulin will become head of operations later this year, as Paul Sobey plans to retire, the company said Tuesday.

Poulin has worked at Sobeys for more than 16 years and was head of the company's Quebec operations for 11 years. He will remain CEO of Sobeys, the company said.

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Sobey, whose great-grandfather opened a butcher shop that would eventually become one of Canada's largest grocery businesses, has held various positions at Empire for 32 years.

Earlier this year he played a key role in securing a deal to take over 213 Canadian Safeway stores, most in Western Canada, for $5.8-billion.

"With the imminent closing of the Canada Safeway acquisition, Empire will be a truly operationally focused, leading grocery retailer in this country," Sobey said in a release.

"As such, the time is right for the transition of leadership."

The company said Sobey will remain a director after he retires on Dec. 11.

Shares of Empire Co. were down 40 cents to $75.17 near midday Tuesday on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

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