Canadian Tire Names Medline CEO, Wetmore Deputy Chairman

Canadian Tire Corp., the retailer whose shares reached a record in May, named Michael Medline chief executive officer, replacing Stephen Wetmore, who becomes deputy chairman. The shares advanced.

Medline was named president of the Toronto-based company in November and has been a senior executive for more than 13 years, leading initiatives including the company’s acquisition of the Sport Chek retail chain in 2011. He takes over from Wetmore on Dec. 1, according to a company statement.

More growth is on the horizon, though not necessarily in the form of acquisitions, Medline said on a conference call with analysts. He said the company will take a balanced approach to using its cash by increasing the dividend, expanding the stock buyback program and maintaining a “smart” balance sheet.

“We are quite cognizant that money should not burn the hole in your pocket,” Medline said.

Medline and Wetmore both said on the conference call that Canadian Tire is always looking at possible acquisitions, though they’re choosy about what they consider. Currently the company is focusing more on its digital business.

“Digital content is underpinning everything we’re doing online and in the store,” Medline said last week in a phone interview. “It is sort of an immersive experience and what everyone is struggling with, and I think we’re ahead of the game.”

Online Strategy

Derek Dley, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity in Toronto, said “some of the focus is still going to be on updating the online platform, the e-commerce platform, developing some potentially more interesting online initiatives and updating the loyalty and analytics program.”

Since Wetmore became CEO at the start of 2009, shares of Canadian Tire had surged 141 percent through yesterday. The company, which dates back to the 1920s, has expanded from one store to almost 1,700 retail and gasoline locations.

The shares rose 3.1 percent to C$107.74 at the close in Toronto.

Separately today, Canadian Tire reported second-quarter earnings per share of C$2.12, beating the C$2.01 average of analysts’ estimates. Same-store sales rose 2.8 percent at Canadian Tire and increased 8.2 percent at the FGL Sports business, according to a statement.

Canadian Tire, a jack-of-all-trades place that carries everything from toasters to car tires to ice skates in its namesake stores, employs more than 10,000 people, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The company has several banners under its name, including Mark’s, which sells industrial apparel, and FGL Sports, the umbrella for retailers such as Sport Chek and Hockey Experts.

“Michael’s first-hand knowledge gained while running many of our business divisions and the role he has played for years in developing our strategy and leading our acquisitions uniquely position him now to assume the CEO role,” Maureen Sabia, Canadian Tire chairman, said in the statement.