The construction equipment industry is seeing leadership shake-ups as Peter J. Blake, who transformed Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers into a global player with 44 operations in 25 countries, and $3.8 billion in sales in 2013, exits in July after 23 years with the company, including a decade as CEO.
Named as his successor is Ravi Saligram, former president and CEO of OfficeMax.
Blake is credited with increasing the Vancouver, B.C.-based public traded company’s market value tenfold. In releasing its first-quarter results last month, Ritchie Bros. said that its earnings rose 2% to $14.3 million for the quarter ending March 31 compared to the same period in 2013, pointing to foreign exchange gains. But it reported revenue down by 3% from the last quarter to $98.6 million, although in line with its historical averages. Ritchie Bros. (NYSE: RBA) stock traded at $23-a-share on May 30, down 11.9% from a 52-week high of $25.73.
Blake, who was poised to depart in May, is extending his stay until a replacement is found, or until Sept. 1 when he becomes CEO of WesternOne Inc., a Vancouver-based construction investment company, the company said on May 26. Blake will replaces interim Robert King, who remains chairman.
WesternOne, which consists of five equipment, tool rental and sales companies throughout Canada, had $116.6 million in revenue last year. WesternOne said in its first-quarter results announcement, also last month, that revenue rose 51.4% to $107.1 million from the previous quarter and it reported adjusted earnings of $12.9 million.
The firm also said revenue for its modular construction unit was up 52.6% because of an increase in site construction work on a Manitoba project and in the U.S. But earnings dropped 38.3% year over year, "the result of operating losses and lower modular construction margin in Canada because of sales product mix," the company said. "We view Mr. Blake’s appointment in a positive light given his track record of running a large industrial entity that also had a strong international presence," Maxim Sytchev, construction and industrial sector analyst for Dundee Capital Markets, Toront, said in a May 26 report. He noted that WesternOne operates in Canada, the US and Australia, "all markets familiar to the incoming CEO."
Meanwhile, Brian P. MacDonald, president and CEO of Philadelphia-based petroleum giant Sunoco, will take over the 355-branch Hertz Equipment Rental Corp., which last year recorded $1.54 billion in revenue. As CEO, MacDonald will lead the carmaker's former rental unit into becoming a new publicly-traded standalone company. The split from parent Hertz Global Holdings Inc., Park Ridge, N.J. is expected to conclude in early 2015. MacDonald succeeds Lois I. Boyd who had led Hertz Equipment Rental since April 2011. She will continue as an advisor. The company receives two-thirds of its business from the industrial and oil & gas sectors.
And Glasgow, Scotland-based equipment rental firm Aggreko will gain as its new CEO, another oil & gas top executive, Centrica managing director Chris Weston. He starts next year once his commitments as head of Centrica’s international downstream operations finish. Aggreko North America had $392 million in revenue last year across 66 branches. The temporary power and temperature control equipment rental company had been seeking a new leader since late February when Rupert Soames exited, and chief financial officer Angus Cockburn became acting CEO. Cockburn, who observers say did not want the position, is departing Aggreko later this year.