Nearly two weeks after embarrassing reports of its partying CEO leaked out, Benjamin Moore has officially confirmed his replacement.
On Friday (June 29), the Montvale, NJ, paint and coatings manufacturer said that Robert S. (Bob) Merritt had been named Chief Executive Officer and President, replacing Denis Abrams.
|New Benjamin Moore CEO Robert Merritt presided a major expansion of the Outback Steakhouse chain.|
After seven years as CEO, Abrams left the company abruptly several weeks ago when the New York Post revealed that he had taken a group of executives and their spouses on a cruise to Bermuda at company expense.
Exit the ‘Dictator’
The trip was meant to celebrate the company’s first sales increase after five brutal years of layoffs, frozen salaries, and cutbacks that Abrams had presided over as a self-proclaimed “dictator.”
Excluding recent acquisitions, Benjamin Moore’s annual revenue still remains about half the peak of $1.1 billion reached in 2005. Indeed, insiders told the Post that the improved sales numbers reflected price increases, rather than increased sales volume.
Under the circumstances, the junket offended not only Benjamin Moore’s rank and file but, more importantly, Warren Buffett, the famously thrifty CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, which purchased Benjamin Moore in 2000, the Post reported. Buffett then fired Abrams, reports said.
After the reports became public, a Benjamin Moore spokeswoman confirmed that Merritt had succeeded Abrams.
Friday’s announcement did not discuss the circumstances of Abrams’ departure or include the customary thanks for his service. The focus was strictly on Merritt, a 30-year veteran of the restaurant and distribution industries.
“Benjamin Moore is an icon of American industry and a valued heritage brand among paint and coatings products,” said Merritt. “I look forward to the challenges ahead, building on the company’s successful history, and helping to prepare it for the next 50 years.”
Merritt holds a B.B.A. in accounting from George Washington University.
As Senior Vice President and CFO of Outback Steakhouse Inc., Merritt oversaw the franchise’s initial public offering in 1991 and its later listing on the New York Stock Exchange. During his tenure, the company grew from five restaurants in Florida to more than 1,250 locations in 22 countries, and the Outback brand was expanded to seven additional restaurant chains.
Merritt left Outback Steakhouse in 2005, frustrated over “expanding legal and regulatory burdens” dictated by the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which set new standards for all U.S. public company boards, management and public accounting firms, the Tampa Bay Tribune reported.