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ATLANTA-The continued expansion of one of the fastest-growing retail chains in the country, Goodlettsville, TN-based Dollar General Corp., has been sidetracked.

Third-generation chief executive officer Cal Turner Jr. has resigned as the Securities and Exchange Commission continues its investigation of accounting irregularities involving leases.

The SEC investigation was prompted this January when Dollar General revealed that its profits for fiscal 1998 through 2000 were overstated by $100 million. Leases and liabilities had been incorrectly accounted for. The company agreed to pay $162 million to settle shareholder lawsuits.

This summer Turner paid the company back $6.8 million that he had received in bonuses and stock options but was not entitled to in light of the misstated earnings.

In announcing his resignation this week, Turner gave no reason for the decision and said, in a prepared statement, he would help search for his successor and remain as chairman to be a “mentor and advisor.”

Approximately half of the company’s 5,890 stores in 27 middle and southeastern states were opened within the past five years. At an average of 7,500-sf per store, that accounts for approximately 22 million sf of retail space.

So intense were the retailers’ growth plans that it posts its real estate criteria on its corporate web site. The criteria includes a preference for an average of 7,000 sf to 8,500 sf as “junior anchor in first-generation space . . . free-standing or strip center.”

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