John Van Heel is leaving Monro Muffler Brake Inc. after 15 years with the company, the last five as its CEO. He will be replaced by Brett Ponton, whose career includes time at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., where he rose through the ranks and eventually served as vice president of marketing for the North American tire division and managed more than 800 retail locations.
Van Heel, who has also resigned from the board of directors as of Oct. 1, will remain with the company as an advisor for six months after that date. The company says Van Heel decided not to renew his long-term contract, which is set to expire in October.
Additionally, the board of directors has elected Robert Mellor as its independent chairman of the board. Robert Gross, executive chairman, will retire from the board and the company at the end of the annual shareholder meeting on Aug. 15, 2017.
Mellor points to Monro’s growth during Van Heel’s tenure. “During his 15 years at the company, the past five as CEO, the company has grown from 550 stores and $250 million in annual sales to more than 1,100 stores and annual sales of more than $1 billion.”
In discussions about succession planning with the board, Van Heel told the board he didn’t want to renew his contract. The board then conducted a national search for its next leader.
“In Mr. Ponton we have found a worthy successor to Mr. Van Heel and his predecessor, Mr. Gross. Mr. Ponton’s strategic vision and proven in-store operational expertise will help drive our long-term success,”Mellor says.
Monro has 1,118 company-owned stores and 114 franchised locations in 27 states. In fiscal 2017, the company’s annual sales topped $1 billion, and 8% increase over the prior year — though its monthly comparable store sales figures haven’t been that strong. The company’s sales increases have come from its aggressive streak of acquisitions. Monro says it has completed 42 acquisitions, and the company expects the stores it acquired in fiscal 2017 to contribute $150 million in additional annualized sales over fiscal 2016.
Mellor says, “Monro is very pleased to welcome Brett Ponton as its next president and CEO. His deep industry expertise and contacts, his success running both franchise and company-operated automotive service and tire stores and his proven leadership skills will help accelerate Monro’s successful acquisition strategy. He is the right person to lead Monro at this stage in its growth.”
According to information provided by Monro, Ponton was “instrumental in orchestrating a turnaround for American Driveline Systems, and recently led its successful sale to Transom Capital Group.” He joined the company in 2013 from Heartland Automotive Services Inc., the largest operator of Jiffy Lube stores in North America. He was recruited to Heartland by its owners, The Blackstone Group, to improve revenues and profitability, and did so successfully as the business was sold to Sun Capital Partners in 2012. Prior to joining Heartland in 2009, he served as the managing director for the Asia-Pacific region for Veyance Technologies, a company that was spun out of Goodyear and was owned by The Carlyle Group.
During his time with Veyance he was based in Shanghai, and later Melbourne. He worked for Goodyear for 18 years before his move to Veyance. At Goodyear, “he rose from a summer laborer, and later, an accounting intern.”