Rona CEO Robert Dutton steps down

The departure of Rona CEO Robert Dutton comes 20 years after he became the home improvement retailer's president in 1992.
Rona's CEO of 20 years is leaving the company unexpectedly. (Nathan Denette/Canadian Press)

Robert Dutton has stepped aside as top executive at Rona Inc., ending a 20-year regime that saw the Montreal-area company cobble together the largest network of home-improvement retailers in Canada.

The announcement of Dutton's departure came one day after Rona announced its third-quarter net profit fall nearly 90 per cent due to more competition and one-time costs.

It also comes just months after the Canadian home improvement chain fended off a takeover attempt by American rival Lowe's, which was rebuffed not only by the Rona board but also Quebec provincial politicians.

The announcement came before markets opened in Toronto, and Rona shares shot up 7.6 per cent, or 71 cents, to $10.06 in early trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Dutton joined the company, headquartered in Boucherville, Que, in 1977 and became its president and chief executive in 1992.

The company has grown to nearly 30,000 employees across the country under his leadership, through a combination of acquisitions, partnerships and internal growth.

"Robert was a pioneer and has been an inspiration for generations of merchants, managers and employees at Rona," said Robert Pare, chairman of Rona's board.

"We wish him every success in his future endeavours."

The company's announcement didn't include a statement from Dutton.

Rona's current chief financial officer, Dominique Boies, will be interim CEO while the company's board seeks a permanent successor.

The Montreal-based company has Canada's largest network of stores selling hardware, home renovation and gardening products.

It has a network of about 830 locations under its banner, but only about 80 in the large store format similar to the Canadian big-box stores operated by Home Depot and Lowe's. It also has a division geared to the professional contractor market.

Home Depot currently has 180 stores across Canada.