The Industry’s Power 25 (part 4)

J. Michael Walsh
President and CEO
Core-Mark Holding Co. Inc.

It would be tough to overstate how important the company J. Michael Walsh leads is to the c-store industry. As one of the largest broad-line, full-service distributors of packaged consumer products to the convenience retail industry in North America, Core-Mark provides distribution and logistics services as well as marketing programs to more than 24,000 retail locations across the U.S. and Canada.

Walsh has served as Core-Mark’s president and CEO since March 2003, and as a director since August 2004, overseeing distribution of packaged consumables (including cigarettes, tobacco, candy, snacks, grocery items, nonalcoholic beverages, and health and beauty aids) to convenience retailers, mass merchandisers, and drug, liquor and specialty stores.

Sometimes described as the “phoenix of smokes and snacks distributors,” Core-Mark was the sole entity to emerge from the ashes of the Fleming Cos. 2003 bankruptcy. Yet, even in a distressed economy, the company has continued to prosper. The company’s gross profit for the third quarter of 2008 was $93.9 million, $8.7 million higher than the same period in 2007. “We are pleased with the strength of our revenues and positive trends in the food/non-food margins, and while more work is needed, we are realizing some leveraging of our operating expenses,” Walsh said.

Cigarettes, which account for about one-third of c-store sales, make up more than two-thirds of Core-Mark’s sales. The company’s customers include Couche-Tard, Maverik and Valero. The firm serves customers in 45 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces.

The company is also aggressively expanding. Earlier this year, Core-Mark acquired the assets of Auburn Merchandise Distributors, a move Walsh said will enable the company to continue pursuing its vision of taking its successful business model to new areas of the country.

Before joining Core-Mark, Walsh served as the senior vice president of operations of Food Services of America.

August A. Busch IV
Anheuser-Busch Cos. Inc.

Anheuser-Busch President August A. Busch assumed his role as overseer of the huge, family-named business in 2002. During his tenure, Busch has had many accomplishments, including most recently managing the transition to becoming Anheuser-Busch InBev following last month’s $52-billion merger deal.

Anheuser-Busch, founded in 1876, survived Prohibition by moving into widely diverse products like soft drinks and automobile bodies. It went on to become the largest brewing company in the U.S. before becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of InBev, which made the resulting company one of the world’s top five consumer products companies.

Beer products are essential to convenience channel retailing, and AB has a great track record for creating and marketing successful formulations. The company’s passion for beer and commitment to quality have allowed it to offer a diverse range of beers and beverages including Budweiser, Bud Light, Chelada and all varieties of Michelob.

Though his tenure as AB president was relatively short-lived, Busch was instrumental in the success of AB’s products for years, revamping Budweiser’s image when sales of that beer began collapsing a decade ago. “There was a culture weaved into the Budweiser brand,” Busch said. “No one wanted to change it.”

By moving Budweiser out of the bowling alley market and into the younger 20-something market that was rapidly dictating which drinks would succeed and which would fail, Busch did the family business a major service. His father, August Busch III, initially opposed the brand repositioning, but later admitted, “I’ve lost the ability to understand the 21-to-30-year-olds the way I used to.”

After studying at the University of Arizona, Busch graduated magna cum laude from Saint Louis University, where he also obtained his master’s degree in business administration. Busch also holds a brewmaster’s degree from the International Brewing Institute in Berlin, Germany. In addition to his duties at Anheuer-Busch InBev, Busch also serves as a director of FedEx.

Martin Gafinowitz
Gilbarco Inc.

The rate of technological advances—and the effects these have on the convenience channel—are two topics that fascinate Gilbarco/Veeder-Root President Martin Gafinowitz. “Ten years ago, who would have thought that consumers would be able to access the Internet and get driving directions while they’re fueling their cars?” Gafinowitz said. “We are truly at the beginning of a new era in which the customer’s fueling experience will be transformed.”

The company Gafinowitz so ably leads is at the forefront of that era, providing equipment and software that help retailers capture a bigger piece of the fuel pie by designing and manufacturing fuel dispensers that help drive in-store traffic with printable coupons and lower costs by tracking lost fuel. In addition, the company’s new TLS-450 dispenser provides automated compliance management, and its new eVRgreen System with CARB Certification offers a complete vapor recovery and monitoring system.

Gafinowitz is confident Gilbarco will remain the leader of the pack as the move toward non-petroleum based fuel progresses. “We are in the business of supplying equipment to support the dispensing of fuel, and we intend to be in that business regardless of what the fuel type is,” Gafinowitz said.

Last fall, Gilbarco exhibited the first hydrogen dispenser with integrated payment systems for the retail market. The company offers pumps that can dispense ethanol, CNG, LPG, and biodiesel as well as gasoline. “Each of these fuel types has support in different markets around the globe, and our objective is to continue to partner with our customers to provide the range of forecourt equipment that allows them to meet their business objectives,” Gafinowitz said.

As vice president and general manager of Veeder-Root and president of Gilbarco North America prior to being named president of Gilbarco/Veeder-Root, Gafinowitz developed a truly global view of the convenience store industry that continues to serve the industry superbly.

Susan M. Ivey
President and CEO
Reynolds American Inc.

Susan M. Ivey is president and CEO of Reynolds American, the parent company of RJ Reynolds Tobacco (RJRT), Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Lane Limited and others. RJRT is the nation’s second-largest cigarette company, with brands including Camel, Winston and Pall Mall. RJRT is the only American tobacco company with subsidiaries that offer tobacco products in every major category.

Ivey oversees manufacturing and marketing for about one-third of the cigarettes sold in the U.S. and is one of the highest-ranking female executives in the country who is also extremely active in political and community affairs.

As an executive, Ivey has consistently opposed legislation that would have restricted or otherwise harmed tobacco sales, which continues to be the leading in-store category for convenience retailers.

Ivey began her business career in tobacco as a sales representative, then held various trade and brand positions, including division manager and brand director after joining Brown & Williamson Tobacco in 1981. Formerly president and CEO of Brown & Williamson Tobacco Co., Ivey has accumulated more than 20 years of tobacco industry experience that included a stint as director of marketing in China for British American Tobacco.

Ivey became president and chief executive officer of Reynolds American in 2004, then chairman of Reynolds American in January 2006. She serves on the Women’s Leadership Initiative for the United Way of America and is a member of The Business Council and The Committee of 200, an international organization of women CEOs, entrepreneurs and business leaders who provide mentoring, education and support for aspiring women business leaders.

Ivey is also is a board member of Bellarmine University, Winston-Salem YWCA, Wake Forest University, University of Florida Foundation and the Winston-Salem Alliance and serves on the Board of Advisors for the Center for Women in Business and Economics at Salem College.

Muhtar Kent
President and CEO
The Coca-Cola Co.

While it maintains its position as one of the largest non-alcoholic beverage makers in the world, The Coca-Cola Co. has certainly earned its rightful place as a leader in sustainability, diversity and corporate responsibility.

Fitting, then, that the company chose Muhtar Kent, a longtime Coca-Cola executive with truly global experience, to succeed former CEO Neville Isdell as president and CEO this past summer.

Kent joined The Coca-Cola Co. in 1978 as general manager of Coca-Cola Turkey and Central Asia, and has served in countless international and domestic roles over the past three decades. From 1999 to 2005 he served as president and CEO of the Efes Beverage Group—the majority shareholder of Turkish bottler Coca-cola Icecek—where he oversaw triple-digit revenue growth.

Since becoming president and CEO this past July, his optimism and thirst for ingenuity, innovation and excellence is evident. And amid a tumultuous environment for businesses global and domestic, Coca-Cola continues to shine as an innovator and leader in the non-alcoholic beverages industry.

Coke operates in more than 200 countries and has more than 450 brands offering 2,800 different beverage products, including teas, soft drinks, sport drinks, isotonics, energy drinks, juices and juice drinks, water and much, much more.

Like other environmentally conscious global corporations, the company is promoting a focus on sustainability and earth-friendly business practices as essential components to its future success.

“Our sustainability as a company demands a relentless focus on efficiency in our use of natural resources,” Kent said at a recent beverage-industry conference.

On that front, the company has improved its water-use efficiency dramatically, as well as investing $40 million to build the world’s largest plastic bottle-to-bottle recycling plant, which will be located in Spartanburg, S.C.

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