By Tracey Arial
The Laval-based convenience store powerhouse Couche Tard announced a major change in management last month.
Couche Tard founder Alain Bouchard will be replaced by his current chief operating officer Brian Hannasch. The transition will take place on September 24, during the shareholders’ annual meeting.
Despite the changeover in management, Bouchard, Real Plourde and Richard Fortin still hold the vast majority of the companies’ voting shares. Those voting rights remain in effect until a fourth original founder, Jacques d’Amour, turns 65 in 2021.
Bouchard’s also not going far.
“I see this change as an evolution,” said Bouchard when the announcement was made last week. “It will let me invest more of my time in acquisitions and new industry opportunities. I will also take part in the strategic discussions and serve as a mentor and coach to our next generation of leaders.”
Hannasch and Bouchard spoke to reporters about the change in leadership during a conference call last week.
They addressed four major issues: residence, language, government regulation and unions.
Hannasch’s official residence remains in Columbus, Indiana, but he has also had an apartment in downtown Montreal since November. His family will join him in Quebec when he starts his official duties next fall.
Hannasch excused his inability to speak French with a single sentence. “The reality is I am an American and English is my native tongue.”
He does plan to take language lessons, but Bouchard made the point that people in most of the locations where Couche Tard operates speak English. The company operates 6,221 convenience stores throughout North America in 38 states and ten provinces in Canada. It employs more than 60,000 people.
The two also presented diverse opinions about the new laws the Parti Quebecois plans to give Quebec companies facing hostile takeovers. Hannasch spoke about his reluctance to have private companies controlled by too much government regulation, while Bouchard said he’d appreciate more rights.
Hannasch shares Bouchard’s stance on unions.
“We’re onside on that issue,” he said before Bouchard interrupted him to say that they don’t have any further comment.
The issue is particularly thorny right now.
Couche-Tard and the CSN settled a longstanding court case last October. Their settlement included compensation for 24 workers at two Montreal stores that closed after being unionized.
Today, six outlets in the Montreal area are unionized (St. Liboire at Exit 145 of Highway 20; Longueuil at 1400 Édouard, St. Hubert borough; Victoriaville at 260, Notre Dame West; Boisbriand at 1000 Grande Allée) and two in Montreal (18401 Antoine Faucon in Pierrefonds-Roxboro and 6331 Henri Bourassa in Montréal-Nord).
Couche-Tard and the CSN now take turns communicating how the other treats workers.