After 26 years, Peter Simons leaves the presidency of the family business. For the first time since 1840, the retailer will not be run by a family member. A decision, taken in a “moment of lucidity”, which will undoubtedly remove a little “pressure” on the shoulders of the “still young” children of the businessman, he argues.
Bernard Leblanc, who until recently held the position of executive vice-president and chief corporate officer, will act as president and chief executive officer, Maison Simons announced on Tuesday.
Peter Simons will remain with the company as Chief Merchandiser – managing inventory, purchasing, supply chains – and will sit on the family council as well as the advisory council, a sort of board of directors. Brothers Peter and Richard Simons will remain the controlling shareholders.
Aged 57, the one who embodied the face of the company known for its clothing and household items could have remained in office for several more years. Why leave now? “Yes, I’m young,” he admits, laughing on the phone. The company has solid backbone, we are in a good position. We are starting to move forward with projects for the future. All the elements were in place. The businessman in me thinks it’s better to be proactive than reactive. I would like to be there to support Bernard in this transition and ensure the success of the company. »
“We think 20-25 years ahead,” he added during the interview with The Press with Bernard Leblanc. “For a CEO, the most important thing is the succession, the continuity of the company. This is very much the mistake people make. They are not able to put the business first. »
Mr. Simons made his decision recently. This reflection was not started before the pandemic and, at the height of the crisis, he devoted his energies to weathering the storm, he says.
Regarding the issue of family succession, the businessman who is the father of two children, while his brother Richard has three, considers that it would be premature for them to take control since they are still youth. Some are still continuing their studies. The company had been family run for five generations.
“What is happening today was bound to happen sooner or later. [en raison] the age difference I have with my children and where they are in their lives, he says. This decision frees them from a bit of a lot of stress. Maybe I’m giving myself too much credit, but what I’m deciding today is showing kids that they don’t have to be CEOs. One can find different roles to play at different times in the business. »
About Mr. Leblanc, although he is not a member of the family, he shares the same values with her, insists Mr. Simons. “I am undertaking the mandate with a great sense of duty,” adds the new CEO, who joined the company in 1994 as manager of imports and purchases. “I see myself as a guardian of the legacy that has been handed down in a way by five generations of the family. »
“I think it opens up the options for the benefit of the organization,” he said. That one of the children could integrate the management of the company one day, it is not excluded. »
In interviews given to various media during the pandemic, Mr. Simons did not hide that his company was experiencing difficulties, like many retailers. ” [Maintenant], we start dreaming again,” says Bernard Leblanc. This refers in particular to the opening of a 16and store in a few weeks at the Center Fairview Pointe-Claire. The retailer considers that it has also succeeded in its digital shift.
In Quebec, the new distribution center, a $200 million project, is operational, and we are finishing the installation of the last phase. It is from this center that orders for stores and those placed online are managed.
The company founded in Quebec in 1840 by John Simons now has 15 stores: 9 in Quebec, 2 in Ontario, 3 in Alberta and 1 in British Columbia. Nearly 3,000 employees work for Maison Simons.
Although he is drawing a line from a position he held for many years, Peter Simons has no intention of taking a vacation before taking on his role as chief merchant. “I’m going to go help a friend in a sugar bush this weekend, but no big vacation. I have a lot of work. »