Holy Schmitt! Purolator CEO sacked by board after shareholders meeting
May 24, 2012
May 24, 2012
“Oh Captain my Captain! Our fearful trip is done…
Oh the bleeding drops of red / Where on the deck my captain lies / Fallen cold and dead”
Some Purolator employees received a rather terse message from board of directors chair Stewart Bacon in their email on Tuesday May 22 informing them that “Tom Schmitt will be leaving Purolator effective today.” The missive goes on to “thank Tom for his contribution to Purolator and to wish him well.” Reading between the lines this is a backhanded slap to the displaced leader. Evidently Bacon couldn’t find much good to say about Schmitt and didn’t bother trying.
CEO and president Tom Schmitt was turfed unceremoniously only a few days after he hosted the shareholders meeting in Toronto last Thursday. The move was unexpected as Schmitt seemed to be in control of the helm and had met with the board before the meeting. Sometime after his presentation, the knives came out and Schmitt became a palimpsest—reminding me of one of those Egyptian kings whose image was chiseled away from the heiroglyphs so that only his negative impression remains.
The German-born, Harvard grad was supposed to the be wunderkind that was going to plot a new direction for the Canadian courier giant. Only 20 months before Bacon had called him an “exceptional leader…(with a) passion for service excellence” after he was poached from his senior VP posting at FedEx Solutions in Memphis, Tennessee.
Evidently, his lacklustre performance at Puro had displeased the board which is heavily-laden with Canada Post executives (Canada Post owns 95% of Purolator), and he’ll be replaced in the interim by Wayne Cheeseman, CFO for the post office. Or maybe his hands-on, employee-consulting style rubbed the old guard the wrong way.
But don’t feel too sorry for young Tom (he’s still in his mid-40s), and he’ll probably get millions of Loonies in a settlement. But the question remains, what went wrong? Courier volumes have been stagnant since his arrival but the logistics division appears to be going great guns. And he certainly tried—Schmitt posted a weekly blog asking for input and solutions, replies which he personally answered.
Maybe the last contract was considered too generous by the poohbahs at CanPost. Who can forget how CUPW members were legislated back to work by the collusion of labour minister Lisa Raitt which forced them to to work for a smaller pay package than had been already negotiated.
The changing of the guard at Purolator can also be viewed in the context of what happened at CP Rail. A coup by new board members was followed by a strike and immediate plans by the labour minister to draft back to work legislation, as was done at Canada Post and Air Canada. BTW, you’d have to be touched in the head to fly anwhere with Air Canada if there’s another alternative. Morale is so low at the air carrier, I wouldn’t trust them with my baggage let alone boarding pass. Thanks Lisa!
So what lies ahead for the great Canadian shipper? Yes the contract has been dotted and signed but no doubt the new management will be looking to claw back pensions and cut costs anywhere it can. The Cheeseman / Bacon connection sounds like an interesting sandwich but we’re probably looking at stale, low fat cheese served on white bread with a few pork drippings.
Meanwhile, we can expect another purge in upper management. Schmitt cleaned house dismissing many VPs and their sycophants while he was assembling his “team” only a few months ago. Now those “teammates” will undergo intense scrutiny, and most probably the decks will be wet with a crimson flood once again. So long Tom, we hardly knew ye!
Harry Rudolfs has worked as a dishwasher, apprentice mechanic, editor, trucker, foreign correspondent and taxi driver. He's written hundreds of articles for North American and European journals and newspapers, including features for the Ottawa Citizen, Toronto Life and CBC radio.
With over 30 years experience in the trucking industry he's hauled cars, steel, lumber, chemicals, auto parts and general freight as well as B-trains. He holds an honours BA in creative writing and humanities, summa cum laude. All posts by Harry Rudolfs