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3rd CEO in 2 Years Joins Ben Moore

Friday, October 11, 2013

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Paint maker Benjamin Moore & Company has appointed a career retailing executive as its third CEO in two years.

The 130-year-old Montvale, NJ-based paint and coatings manufacturer named Michael Searles chief executive officer in an announcement issued Tuesday (Oct. 8).

Michael Searles
Benjamin Moore & Co.

Michael Searles will be Benjamin Moore & Co.'s new CEO—the third in two years for the producer of residential, commercial and industrial maintenance coatings.

Searles, 64, succeeds Robert S. Merritt, who was fired Sept. 27 after 14 months as CEO and president.

Searles brings 40 years of retail experience to the role, including serving in leadership roles at Kids “R” Us, Wilsons Leather and, most recently, Stage Stores Inc., Benjamin Moore said.

Searles said in a statement: "The opportunities for continued success of this iconic brand are excellent, and I look forward to working with the team to make them a reality."

Merritt’s Departure

It took the Berkshire Hathaway business unit less than two weeks to name the new executive after its brief announcement that Merritt was “no longer with the firm.”

As of Thursday (Oct. 10), the company still had offered no information regarding the reason for Merritt’s abrupt departure.

Merritt had been appointed as Benjamin Moore's CEO in July 2012. He replaced Denis Abrams, who had been ousted by Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

Benjamin Moore Leadership
Photos: Benjamin Moore & Co.

Searles replaces Robert S. Merritt (left), who held the CEO and President position for the paint maker for 14 months. Merritt had succeeded Denis Abrams (right), who was fired by Benjamin Moore's parent company owner Warren Buffett after seven years.

Abrams had headed the coatings company for seven years. His dismissal was the result of “a differing view about distribution channels and brand strategy for the future,” Buffett said in a letter posted online by the Wall Street Journal.

News outlets have reported that Merritt, too, was fired by the 83-year-old investment tycoon.

Focus on Dealer Commitment

In a statement, Buffett described Searles as a “strong, adept leader who understands the importance of the independent retailer.”

"Mike is committed to the strategy we have set forth and the commitment we have outlined to the dealer network. We are excited to have him joining the Benjamin Moore team,” Buffett said.

In the past few years, the company has faced strained relationships with dealers, who have accused the paint maker of “strong-arming them into exclusive distribution agreements while milking them for cash,” among other allegations, according to the New York Post.

Buffett acquired Benjamin Moore for $1 billion in 2001. The company, founded in 1883, produces commercial and industrial maintenance coatings, with products distributed via a network of independent paint and decorating retailers throughout North America.

Staffing and Changes

Staffing at Benjamin Moore declined about 15% to 2,240 in the five years ended Dec. 31, according to Berkshire's annual reports, Bloomberg News reported.

"Stage Stores said in June that Searles left as part of the consolidation that combined a Virginia operation where he worked with the corporate headquarters in Houston," the news service also reported.

Searles "was named CEO of Wilsons in late 2004 and stepped down in 2008 after the company announced plans to shut stores amid mounting losses," Bloomberg News said.

   

Tagged categories: Architectural coatings; Benjamin Moore; Business management; Business operations; Coatings manufacturers; Distributors; Personnel; Personnel changes

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