Billionaire Warren Buffett has quietly fired Benjamin Moore CEO Denis Abrams after Abrams allegedly treated a group of corporate officers and their wives to a trip to Bermuda at the company’s expense, the New York Post has reported.
Abrams, chief executive officer since 2007, was replaced June 6 at the 129-year-old company, owned by Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, the newspaper reported Thursday (June 14).
Benjamin Moore screengrab
|Ousted Benjamin Moore CEO Denis Abrams “kept asking what he’d done wrong,” a source told the New York Post. Berkshire Hathaway officials “told him to clear his stuff out while they stood and watched every move he made.”|
Benjamin Moore spokeswoman Eileen McComb confirmed the transition in an email Monday (June 18) and said the company would be issuing an announcement by early next week.
Abrams was the vice-president for operations when Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway bought Benjamin Moore in 2000. He was promoted to the top spot just as the housing market tanked and the company began five years of plunging sales.
In fact, the Bermuda trip was reportedly thrown in honor of the company’s first sales increase in five years.
“The trip riled Benjamin Moore’s rank-and-file, who have weathered layoffs, slashed commissions and frozen salaries over the five years of tough sledding,” the newspaper said.
The newspaper said Abrams “routinely referred to himself as a ‘dictator’ as he threatened dissenting workers with their jobs.”
Meanwhile, insiders said that the sales improvement reflected higher prices, rather than increased volume.
The Post said a half-dozen Berkshire executives traveled to Benjamin Moore’s headquarters in Montvale, NJ, to terminate Abrams and escort him from the building.
Abrams was replaced by Robert S. Merritt, a director of Ruth’s Hospitality Group and board chairman of Cosi Inc., who has spent more than 30 years in the restaurant industry.
Merritt was chief financial officer of Outback Steakhouse until 2005, when he resigned in anger over “expanding legal and regulatory burdens associated with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, a federal law created to prevent a repeat of Enron Corp.-type ethical and financial meltdowns,” the Tampa Bay Tribune reported.
Buffett Keeps Mum
Buffett, as famous for his personal thriftiness as his vast wealth, issued no statement on the transition.
Benjamin Moore, founded in 1883 by the Moore brothers, supplies the entire spectrum of coatings, from house paints to protective coatings. Its companies include Complementary Coatings Corp., which makes the Insl-x and Corotech brands of protective coatings.
Excluding recent acquisitions, the Post reported, the company’s annual revenue remains about half the peak of $1.1 billion reached in 2005.