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James Roberts named CEO at Apex Tool Group

BY HBSDealer Staff

Apex Tool Group, LLC, has named James Roberts as its new chief executive, taking over for Thomas Wroe, Jr., who came out of retirement in 2013 to lead the company.

Roberts was previously CEO of The Chamberlain Group for the past five years, a provider of access control solutions serving industrial, commercial, automotive and consumer markets.

He also held several senior executive positions at Newell-Rubbermaid, including leading its IRWIN Tools & Hardware segment. Roberts also served as president of Worldwide Hand Tools and Hardware at The Stanley Works, and he spent 19 years at Black & Decker, including serving as President of Worldwide Accessories.

Wroe, a 40-year veteran of Texas Instruments and former chairman and CEO of Sensata Technologies, came out of retirement in September 2013 to join Apex Tool Group's Board as chairman, and subsequently became CEO in October 2014. 

"As we planned for succession, Jim emerged as a proven CEO with deep tool industry knowledge and leadership capability," Wroe said.

"My goal was to help bring strategic focus to the business while accelerating our journey to become a growth-oriented, high performance organization," he added. "We've made strong progress towards becoming a more profitable, best cost, sustainable enterprise with a bright future ahead. Jim brings tremendous focus on the customer, strong experience in product and brand management, and has run similar businesses. I'm excited to be working with Jim and believe he's the right leader to take Apex to the next level."

With Wroe continuing in place as chairman, Roberts will also become a member of the board of directors.

"I am excited about joining this dynamic global company, and working closely with Tom and the management team," said Roberts. "Apex Tool Group has strong market share, great brands, global positioning and a world-class operating platform. I want to thank Tom for his leadership and accomplishments. I appreciate his tremendous drive for results, sense of urgency, commitment to creating value for our shareholders, and supporting the efforts of our nearly 8,000 associates around the world. I welcome his continued guidance and contributions as our executive chairman."

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Keeping it local: Kodiak and US LBM on the stump

BY Ken Clark

Providence, Rhode Island — In a joint appearance that had absolutely no resemblance to a Trump vs. Cruz or Clinton vs. Sanders face-off, the chiefs of two acquisition-oriented building materials companies sounded off on a variety of topics here at the LBM EXPO '16.

In fact, L.T. Gibson and Steve Swinney eloquently presented a clear consensus on most things LBM.

The two CEOs — Gibson of Green Bay, Wisconsin-based US LBM Holdings, and Swinney of Denver-based Kodiak Building Partners — began their panel discussion with a shared belief in the power of local lumberyard brands competing under the direction of local management. From there, the two touched on the prospects for slow but steady macroeconomic growth, the unpredictable duration of acquisition courtships, the increasing importance of recruiting and retention, and the operational gulf between a lumberyard and a warehouse home center.

Gibson identified a resurgence in green products, and also innovations in fasteners and changes in how materials are joined or tied down. Swinney described how customers are struggling to find labor, and the need to help them streamline the process and keep projects on track.

The closest hints at controversy — and not very close hints at that — came when both executives seemed to sidestep a question about the early impact of the industry's mega-mergers: BMC and Stock, and Builders FirstSource and ProBuild Holdings. ("I don't think there's been any surprises," Gibson offered.) Or when Swinney and Gibson downplayed the competitive threat from a pro-focused Home Depot. (Two very different businesses — their business looks a lot more like Target than us," said Swinney, a former Target executive.)

The discussion was organized by the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association, hosts of the EXPO. The two executives responded to a variety of questions from an NRLA moderator and EXPO attendees in an open-forum, town-hall setting. The tone of the presentation played well with the event's slogan: "Strengthen your independent edge."

On the prospects for 2016, Gibson of US LBM — whose holdings include Lampert Lumber, Parker's Building Supply, East Haven Builders Supply and about 20 other divisions — the expectation is for a continuation of the recent slow growth in housing and spending on the home. "Overall, we're looking at '16 to be a lot like '15. It's going to be slow and steady and quite frankly. I think that's good for the companies with the best people, best culture and best vision," he said. "I like the slow, steady approach, and I don't think the market is going to save anybody who isn't focused on their business in the right way."

Other highlights dealt with expansion, branding and people.

 

On what makes a company attractive

GIbson: "What we look for are great companies. We only partner with companies that are No. 1 or No. 2 in their market. But the most important is the team. We ask: Do they want to be the best? Do they bring things that make us better, and do we bring things to make them better?"

Swinney: "From a due diligence standpoint, cultural fit for us is extremely important, and it's probably the biggest part of the process. Of course, you got to do the financial and legal diligence. I would say to everyone in the audience, the right fit is an extremely important consideration. You want to find that right fit that's going to carry on that business."

 

Local vs. national branding

Swinney: "We share a very similar philosophy with L.T. Our acquisitions are great local businesses with long history in their market, whereas the Kodiak name didn't exist five years ago, and it doesn't mean nearly as much as Barton means in Colorado or Zarsky Lumber's name means in Texas. When it comes to our customers, those local names are what drives the business. We like our logo; it's pretty cool, but [our logo] doesn't help the local customer."

Gibson: "The brands that we partner with have been in business an average of 80 years. We feel like we're stewards of those brands. It is a relationship business with the local customer and a local name and a sense of pride. Those brands are one of the most important things we have in our model."          

 

On people and culture

Swinney: "Having a culture and organization that people feel like they want to join. That's probably the biggest thing. If we can keep our great people and figure out how to do better a little bit each day, that's really our first focus."

Gibson: "We don't have people who remember what it was like in 2006. We can hire people who have new ideas, and that's been the most exciting thing in our company. This is not a sleepy lumber industry. This is an exciting industry that's going to change rapidly, and technology is a big part of it."

Asked about legislative issues, both executives expressed a strong and general support for business-friendly administrations at the national and local level.

"I think more than anything, it's about the freedom to do business the right way," said Gibson. 

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Beazer Homes names a new director

BY HBSDealer Staff

Beazer Homes USA, Inc. has named Peter Orser to its board of directors, effective immediately, as part of a succession planning process in connection with an anticipated retirement of a current board member in 2017.

Orser was recently serving as president and CEO of Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company, a subsidiary of Weyerhaeuser Company, from 2010 to 2014.

Orser has more than 30 years of experience in the homebuilding industry, having overseen five different homebuilding operations across the U.S. in his most recent role at Weyerhaeuser. It was also under his leadership that Weyerhaeuser completed the successful sale of the company for $2.8 billion to TRI Pointe Homes, Inc.

Prior to his time there, he worked for Quadrant Homes for 25 years, including as president from 2003 to 2010.

Orser is active in a number of other civic organizations, including serving as Vice Chair of the Runstad Real Estate Center Advisory Board at the University of Washington, and was recently appointed by the Governor to serve on the Washington State Affordable Housing Advisory Board.

He will also serve on the Compensation and Finance Committees of the Beazer Homes board.

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