Changing of the guard at Rona

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Change-of-guard at Rona< /p>

US investment fund Sycamore Partners is now the owner of Rona.

After just 14 months, Rona boss Tony Cioffi, who was Lowe's right-hand man, left the group's management. He will be replaced on an interim basis by Garry Senecal, the hardware store confirmed to Radio-Canada.

Mr. Senecal will work closely with Rona's management committee until the position is filled on a permanent basis, company spokeswoman Valérie Gonzalo said in an email.

This change comes a few months after the sale of Rona by the American company Lowe's to Sycamore Partners, an American investment fund. Despite the change in ownership, Mr. Cioffi remained at the helm of the company for a few months and there was no indication that he was going to leave the group.

Tony Cioffi remained 14 months at the head of Lowe's Canada.

His replacement served as President of Loblaws Markets Division for 10 years. He will work from the head office in Boucherville, Montérégie.

We always think of food people as great specialists in the retail sector. But food and hardware is very different. The first is 52 weeks a year, whereas hardware is very cyclical. So if he stays in the job for a long time, he will have to adapt, a source familiar with the matter told us.

Mr. Senecal is a Franco-Ontarian. Moreover, he made his presentation in French, Thursday, at the head office, during the announcement made to the employees. Rona has not confirmed whether the next boss will have to speak French.

Garry Senecal will act as Rona.

In the past, Rona was run by an American, Tony Hurst, who did not speak the official language of Quebec. However, he had committed to taking courses and training in French.

In 2016, Lowe's created a stir by buying Rona for $2.3 billion, with the backing of the Caisse de depot et placement du Québec (CDPQ) .

But last November, the American company announced that it had sold its Canadian operations for only $400 million, five times less than the price paid six years earlier.

Mr. Cioffi's departure has created some nervousness among head office staff. According to our sources, some believed in a restructuring. But Rona says there are currently no major changes to its business.

“This is the only change, there are none related to Head Office, Warehouses and Stores. »

— Valérie Gonzalo, spokesperson for Rona

But it is clear that the arrival of an investment fund at the head of Rona could lead to changes in the not too distant future distant in order to save money, believes another source consulted.

Yes I think so. When you make an acquisition, you want to create as many synergies as possible. Especially an investment fund. Its goal is to increase the value of the company as quickly as possible in order to be able to sell after three or four years, this source confirmed to us.

Contacted by Radio-Canada, the union United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which represents 2,500 Rona and Réno-Dépôt employees, and the Teamsters union say they will be monitoring the situation closely in the coming months.

They want to hire, there are not enough people in the warehouses. We have not heard of a restructuring. We continue to follow the situation closely, but it is not part of the signals we have received, underlined Christopher Monette, director of public affairs at the Teamsters.

At the head office, there are always 1550 employees, confirms Rona. Sycamore may, however, want to review the systems in place, including IT, or eliminate duplicates, tells us another source.

How are we going to increase sales and how are we going to reduce expenses? It is a double challenge. They've lost a lot of merchants in the last few years as well. That's a big question, she says.

In February, Sycamore Partners announced that the name of Rona, a brand still strong in Quebec and Canada, would return to the fore.

The hardware stores of the Lowe's brand would also gradually take on the colors and name of Rona, even in English Canada. The new owner had also indicated his intention to keep the head office in Boucherville.

This comeback of the Rona brand is also the business of the Quebec Association of Hardware and Building Materials (AQMAT).

I think it works better with the new buyer. It was not his business at Lowe's to run small affiliate outlets. It's more in Rona's own DNA. It's more natural. And it can go both ways. This week, an affiliate acquired the Farnham corporate store. So it shows the openness of people in New York, said Richard Darveau, president and CEO of AQMAT.

There are currently 450 company stores nationwide and 26,000 people are group employees.

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