Robert Dutton, who over 20 years as president of RONA built the firm into Canada’s largest home improvement retailing power from its former position as a (mostly) Quebec-only distributor to independent dealers, resigned his post on Friday after 35 years with the company.
The suddenness of Dutton’s departure fueled industry speculation that North Carolina-based Lowe’s might be returning with another bid to buy out RONA. It was well-known that Dutton had opposed its last such offer (for $14.50 a share, back in September). He wasn’t the only one. RONA’s board of directors didn’t like the deal. And, most tellingly, more than 180 of RONA’s independent dealers went public with a letter opposing the sale of the company to the American giant. But some of RONA’s larger shareholders did like the deal, and went public in saying so. Before the $14.50 was placed on the table, RONA’s shares were trading well below the $9 mark. (This morning, they were up to $10.39, up almost a dollar on Friday, immediately following the news of Dutton’s resignation.)
On Nov. 12, RONA issued a statement saying that Lowe’s had not revisited the takeover issue. “RONA has not received any proposal of any kind from Lowe’s and there have been no discussions between the two companies on the subject,” the statement said.
RONA is now being run by interim CEO Dominique Boies, a finance executive with the Boucherville, QC-based firm. In its statement on Friday, RONA said that it had engaged an executive search firm to look for Dutton’s successor.
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