Gavin Slark to stand down as Grafton Group chief

Businessman has led the builders’ merchants and DIY retail group for 11 years

Grafton Group has announced that Gavin Slark will stand down from his role as chief executive of the London-listed building materials distributor and DIY retailer at the end of this year.

The Sunderland native, who has been at the helm of the group for 11 years, will also stand down from his role on Grafton’s board from December 31st, Grafton said in a statement.

A process to appoint a successor will start immediately, Grafton said, with the support of an executive search firm.

In a statement to the Irish Stock Exchange ahead of trading on Monday, Mr Slark said it was a privilege to have served as chief executive. He said he had made the decision to leave “with a heavy heart” but that the time was right for a new chief executive to lead the business.

Among other things, Mr Slark steered Grafton – owner of the Woodie’s DIY and Chadwicks builders merchants – through the pandemic and recently oversaw its expansion into the Scandinavian market with the €200 million acquisition of Finnish workwear and protective equipment group, IKH.

“Gavin has made an outstanding contribution to Grafton and provided exceptional leadership over the past 11 years,” Michael Rooney, Grafton Group chairman said in a statement.

“Under his stewardship the group has further extended its geographic footprint and has been transformed into a portfolio of higher quality and higher returning businesses with excellent market positions and strong growth prospects.”

Mr Rooney said Mr Slark leaves the group in “an exceptionally strong position, both strategically and financially”.

Helped by the classification of DIY as essential retail during the pandemic, Grafton reported a 68 per cent jump in operating profits for 2021 earlier this year, ahead of earlier guidance. The result was driven mainly by record contributions from its Woodie’s DIY retail unit in the Republic and its Selco builders supplies business in the UK.

“I have made the decision to leave with a heavy heart but am confident that this is the right time for a new CEO to lead the business as Grafton embarks on its next phase of growth and development,” Mr Slark said on Monday. “I remain very committed to the leadership of the business over the next six months and to working towards a smooth transition to my successor.”

Ian Curran

Ian Curran is a Business reporter with The Irish Times