Loblaw Names Weston President in Management Overhaul

Loblaw Cos. named Executive Chairman Galen G. Weston president, replacing Vicente Trius, as Canada’s biggest food retailer grapples with new rivals.

Weston, 41, will take on the new role immediately, Brampton, Ontario-based Loblaw said today in a statement. Trius, who’s 56 years old and had been president since 2011, is leaving for family reasons and returning to Brazil. Loblaw also named Grant Froese chief operating officer and Richard Dufresne chief financial officer.

Loblaw, with more than 2,300 locations across Canada, is shaking up senior management while it vies to lure shoppers amid increased competition from Target Corp., which expanded into the country last year. Weston’s family’s company, George Weston Ltd., is the biggest shareholder in Loblaw, with about 45 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the family, through me, are getting closer to the business to make sure the vision that we’ve established, that supported the investment, actually gets delivered and executed,” Weston said on a conference call today.

Loblaw shares fell 0.6 percent to C$48.96 at the close in Toronto. The stock is up 16 percent this year.

The leadership change is “slightly negative” for Loblaw because Trius had stabilized the company’s grocery results and helped it outperform some competitors, Peter Sklar, a Toronto-based analyst at Bank of Montreal, said today in a note to clients.

Investor Questions

“Investors will question whether Mr. Weston will be as effective in the day-to-day ‘hands on’ aspects of the business,” Sklar said, adding that Froese could take on many of Trius’s previous responsibilities. Sklar recommends buying the shares.

The management changes were surprising and “not an intended game plan at the outset” of Loblaw’s takeover of Shoppers Drug Mart Corp., which was completed in April, Patricia Baker, an analyst at Bank of Nova Scotia in Montreal, said in a note. She lowered her rating on the shares to the equivalent of a hold.

Loblaw also announced today that Mike Motz will take over as president of Shoppers Drug Mart when Domenic Pilla leaves the company at the end of the year. Sarah Davis, formerly CFO, will become chief administrative officer.

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