Sun | Dec 4, 2022

CPJ still hunting new CEO after short-lived appointment

Published:Friday | October 7, 2022 | 12:08 AM

Specialty food distributor Caribbean Producers Jamaica Limited, CPJ, is still hunting a new CEO after the departure of its last recruit three months into his appointment.

It’s now looking to have a replacement in place by January.

Todd Stromme of the United States was hired for the job on June 1, but left on September 5, forcing CPJ co-founder and Chairman Mark Hart to once again step back into the role of interim CEO.

“Yes, I’m there now, but I’m already looking for a replacement,” Hart said this week.

“Hopefully, the next person will be a better fit,” he said.

At the time of his appointment, Stromme was heralded as someone “with over 30 years of senior and executive management and leadership within food service companies”.

He was also cited as the one to drive company expansion, as the person “responsible for overseeing all activities of the company, including Jamaica, St Lucia, and any other future subsidiaries,” the release to the Jamaica Stock Exchange said at the time.

Hart had stepped in as interim CEO during the pandemic, after the departure of David Rowe.

In July, CPJ announced that it had hired Mayberry Investments to provide financial advisory and brokerage services, a signal that it would be going to the market to raise funds for “current business development and expansion opportunities” in Jamaica and the Caribbean.

“Additionally, CPJ will have established a framework through which prospective projects will be financially assessed, structured, and financed,” the market filing said at the time.

Hart said Stromme was meant to pilot an aggressive plan to grow CPJ over the next five years.

“Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. It takes a few tries before we get it right, unfortunately,” he said.

The interim CEO says the company will press ahead with its plans despite the separation.

“We want to continue to grow, and we have some plans to do some offshore acquisitions,” Hart told the Financial Gleaner.

The search for the new CEO is being done internationally.

Hart would not say which company or individual is assisting with the search, except that CPJ has had assistance from the source previously.

“We’re starting to receive résumés already, and we hope to have somebody on board by January. At the same time, we don’t have a set timeframe,” he said.

“It’s important that we get the right fit.”

Hart said Jamaica does not have a ready pool of food service industry chief executive talent waiting to be hired, but that he’s hoping that a suitable candidate with Jamaican connections would come forward.

“We’re doing an international search, but of course, we include searches for people that have worked in Jamaica or are Jamaican. Sometimes a person like that could be working abroad and have that experience. That would be ideal in terms of assimilation,” he said.

As of now, its “an ‘all hands on deck’ situation” at the company, with wife Candice and co-founder Tom Tyler said to be assisting with the day-to-day operations.

CPJ’s audited accounts for the year ended June are still outstanding. The company now has until October 12 to file the report.

Its financial performance over nine months was positive, the company having spun from a loss of US$3.8 million to profit of US$7 million in the period amid a strong recovery in sales revenue, which rose from US$37 million to US$86 million.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com