Loblaw makes executive changes amid Weston Foods sale

Loblaw’s president Sarah Davis will retire as Galen Weston steps into the role — the move follows operating company George Weston Limited looking to sell Weston Foods to focus on Loblaw’s and its real estate arm.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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George Weston Limited and Loblaw Companies Limited have named Galen Weston to be the president and chair of the Canadian retailer, following the retirement of Sarah Davis. The move comes on the heels of George Weston Limited announcing it will be selling its Weston Foods bakery business.

Weston Foods has been part of the company for 139 years, producing private label products and a range of branded items, as well as foodservice products. The company produces fresh bread and rolls, frozen and artisan breads, and rolls, cakes, donuts, pies, cookies, crackers, wafers and more throughout Canada and the United States.

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"As George Weston focuses its attention on Loblaw and Choice Properties, we are confident this is the right time to unlock the strategic growth potential that exists within Weston Foods through its sale,” said Weston, CEO of Weston Foods and now president of Loblaw.

Weston Foods had sales of $2.1 billion and adjusted EBITDA of $200 million in 2020. George Weston Limited said it intends to commence an orderly sale process soon to ensure a smooth transition plan for the company and its workforce, and that proceeds from the sale are likely to be returned to shareholders.

In returning to the role of Chairman and President, a position he held from 2014 to 2017, Mr. Weston said, "The sale of Weston Foods will allow me to dedicate renewed time and energy at Loblaw as we increase our momentum in both our bricks-and-mortar network, and our leadership in digital and data."

Personnel changes
In light of the decision to focus on its Loblaw retail business and the real estate arm, George Weston Limited said it was the right time for Davis to step into early retirement. 

"Sarah has made an invaluable contribution to the company and I appreciate her leadership over the last 14 years. Her authentic, understated style, and commitment to the potential of others, have been hallmarks of her time with Loblaw. She has been an advisor and friend to many, especially to me. We wish her well."

Davis has been with Loblaw in positions of increasing responsibility since 2007, including both CFO and CAO, during which time she played a crucial role in transforming the company from a regionally managed grocer into an omni-channel retailer with $52.7 billion in revenue. Davis helped Loblaw reduce costs by over $1 billion through innovative productivity improvements and established the company's leadership in data and analytics, including the creation of Canada's most loved loyalty program, PC Optimum.  

"After 14 years at Loblaw, I am immensely proud of what the company has accomplished during my time here and look forward to the next chapter," said Davis.

"Loblaw is Canada's leading retailer with some of the most exciting assets in the industry, including its loyalty and private label programs."
Robert Sawyer , newly appointed chief operating officer, Loblaw

Additional executive moves by Geroge Weston Limited include Robert Sawyer being appointed to chief operating officer and Richard Dufresne being named president and chief financial officer. 

Sawyer will have responsibility for the company's retail divisions, supply chain, and procurement. He has spent more than 40 years as a Canadian retail executive including an extensive career at Metro where he was COO, as well as a highly successful tenure as President and Chief Executive Officer of Rona. He has served as a Director on the Board of GWL since 2016.

"Loblaw is Canada's leading retailer with some of the most exciting assets in the industry, including its loyalty and private label programs," said Sawyer. "I am very much looking forward to joining the team."

Dufresne expands his responsibilities to include CFO of Loblaw, and with George Weston's decision to divest the bakery business, he will return to the dual CFO role which he held between 2014 and 2017.