Top CEO 2005: Wayne Sales
Canadian Tire (TSX: CTR), Toronto
He was at the top of his game, but after more than five years as CEO, Wayne Sales is hanging up his Canadian Tire apron. The iconic Canuck retail chain was on a roll in terms of earnings and share price, but 56-year-old Sales decided in April to step down as CEO to spend more time with his family. However, Sales hasn't completely cut ties to the Tire. He'll act as vice-chairman in an advisory role until the end of his contract in June 2007, smoothing the transition for successor Tom Gauld, who was previously president of financial services.
Top in sales 2004: Mark Foote
Canadian Tire (TSX: CTR), Toronto
In April, Mark Foote left one stalwart of Canadian retailing to join another: Loblaw Cos. Ltd. Foote had been in a good position to succeed then-Canadian Tire CEO Wayne Sales, but decided Canada's largest grocery chain was a better career bet. The plan paid off. Five months into his new job as Loblaw's executive vice-president of general merchandise, procurement and merchandising, Foote became president and chief merchandising officer. He's now right-hand man to executive chairman Galen G. Weston. Foote's challenges at Loblaw may be great, but the potential rewards are even greater.
Top in operations 2004: Rafael Simon
Zenon Environmental, Oakville, Ont.
When GE Water & Process Technologies, a unit of General Electric, acquired Zenon Environmental in June for $763 million, it took over a lot of renowned assets, including a world-leading membrane technology for water purification. But chief operating officer, Rafael Simon, held his breath and jumped overboard (as did Simon's father-in-law, Zenon's founder and CEO, Andrew Benedek). Simon has since resurfaced on XPV Capital Corp.'s Cleantech Fund LP advisory board in Toronto, helping the venture capital firm find investments in the water and wastewater treatment sector.
Top in sales 2005: Don Morrison
Research in Motion Ltd. (TSX: CTR), Waterloo, Ont.
The BlackBerry maker has spent most of the past two years dealing with a nasty patent lawsuit and persistent takeover rumours. Through it all, however, RIM's co-chief operating officer, Don Morrison, has continued the company's worldwide expansion, with 705,000 new subscribers in the last quarter alone. This year RIM has entered Bulgaria, Nigeria, Japan, Korea, United Arab Emirates and announced plans for China, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia. Not bad for a company many thought would be picked off one way or another.
Top COO 2005: Al Plourde
Alimentation Couche-tard Inc. (TSX: ATD-B), Montreal
Canadian company execs too often find challenging the U.S. market is the fastest way to end a successful run. That hasn't been the case for Réal Plourde, executive vice-president and chief operating officer at Alimentation Couche-Tard, which in 2004 added the American chain of Circle K stores to its stable of Couche-Tard and Mac's outlets. As COO, Plourde played a key role in completely integrating the Circle K stores into the company's overall operations last year — considered a major milestone. Next up? Taking on 7-Eleven.
Top CFO 2005: Laurence Sellyn
Gildan Activewear Inc. (TSX: GIL), Montreal
A year ago, Laurence Sellyn had just completed an impressive turnaround at T-shirt maker Gildan Activewear and was promising a major sales push into retail, moving the company beyond its traditional wholesale market. Today, Sellyn is making good on that promise.The company recently sank US$7 million into a state-of-the-art retail distribution centre in Martinsville, Va., and moved more of its production offshore (cutting 540 jobs in North America) to compete against cheap Asian imports. Plus, the first Gildan billboard advertisement was spotted along Toronto's trendy Queen Street West this past summer. Watch out, American Apparel, here comes that other Montreal T-shirt maker.