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Loblaw's fourth-gen to take over from non-family president

By Michael Finnigan

A fourth-gen of George Weston Limited, the Canadian branch of the Weston family empire, has been promoted to the role of president at its supermarket subsidary Loblaws.

Galen G Weston takes over from non-family predecessor Vicente Trius, who will return to Brazil for family reasons.

The Thursday reshuffle comes amid a string of acquisitions by the Weston family, who own 63% of Loblaws through George Weston Limited, including the $12.4 billion (€9.2 billion) acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart this year.

Weston, who is already executive chairman in charge of strategy at the grocery chain, said the time felt right to take over at the helm of the company.

"I am excited about the future, and the opportunity to execute on the strategic vision we have built for the company,” the 41-year-old said. “I am confident that Loblaw will continue to advance its business and create long-term sustainable value."

Truis, who played a pivotal role in the acquisition of Shoppers Drug Mart last year, decided to leave the firm after recent losses in his family.

Loblaw also announced that Domenic Pilla, president of Shoppers Drug Mart, would leave the retail pharmacy chain to take a leading role at an undisclosed public company.

Other changes include the appointment of Richard Dufresne to chief financial officer of Loblaw, a role he already holds at George Weston Limited. He replaces Sarah Davis, who will become chief administrative officer.

Weston conceded that management changes could be destabilising for a company, but the strength of Loblaw’s revenues, which saw growth in the second quarter, meant this was a good time to transition.

"Since we announced the deal to acquire Shoppers Drug Mart over a year ago, our two businesses are on track to deliver the first $100 million in synergies by the end of the first quarter of 2015,” Weston said.

Loblaw remains competitive despite increasing competition from US retailers like Walmart and Target, who are trying to capture a share of the Canadian market.

George Weston Limited acquired Loblaw in 1947, three decades after it was founded by Theodore Pringle Loblaw and J Milton Cork.

The Weston family also has another business empire, Associated British Foods, based in the UK.

Established by second-gen W Garfield Weston in 1935, he passed control to his son Garry, leaving the North American operations to his other son, Galen.

Today Associated British Foods is Britain’s largest family-owned business, with revenues of £13.3 billion (£16.8 billion) in 2013.

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