STELLARTON, N.S. – Empire, the parent company of Sobeys, announced Friday its CEO was gone effective immediately following a rough 2016 fiscal year that saw it pile up $2.13 billion in net losses.
Marc Poulin, who joined the Oshawa Group in 1997 before it was acquired by Empire (TSX:EMP.A), became the company’s president and CEO in December 2013.
Empire gave no details as to why Poulin left, but thanked him for his service.
Francois Vimard, Empire’s chief financial and administrative officer, will be the company’s interim president and CEO. He also replaces Poulin on the board of directors. Vimard started working at Sobeys in the summer of 1995.
The company said it will search for a permanent leader.
The board “unanimously” supported the decision to temporarily promote Vimard to the job, Rob Dexter, chairman of Empire, said in a statement.
“Despite the significant challenges we have faced over the past year, the board is confident the company is pursuing the right strategy,” he said.
Vimard is expected to help the company “see the return of long-term profitable growth,” Dexter said.
Poulin’s sudden departure from the organization follows a series of huge losses related to the acquisition of Canada Safeway as Sobeys expanded its position in Western Canada.
Last week, Empire reported a $2.13 billion net loss for its 2016 financial year or $7.78 per diluted share — mostly because of difficulties related to the integration of Safeway operations into the national grocery chain.
The normally profitable company, based in Stellarton, N.S., had earned $419 million or $1.51 per diluted share in fiscal 2015 prior to a series of quarterly writedowns of its western business.
Sobeys paid $5.8 billion to acquire the Canadian assets of Safeway in 2013, about a year after Poulin became president and CEO of Sobeys Inc.
“On behalf of the board, I would like to thank Marc for his efforts and leadership as CEO over the past four years and, prior to that, for the important role he played in developing our Quebec business,” said Dexter.