Sobeys names Vels CFO; Keay to lead transformation office

Appointments first for CEO Medline in turnaround effort

In the first senior executive appointments since taking over as CEO of Sobeys and its parent company Empire Cos. Ltd., Michael Medline has appointed former Maple Leaf Foods executive Micheal Vels (pictured above) to the position of CFO of Sobeys and Empire, effective June 12, the retailer said.

Vels will succeed Clinton Keay, who has been serving as interim CFO since last July, when Sobeys dismissed CEO Marc Poulin and CFO Francois Vimard took over as interim CEO. Vimard was named EVP at Empire upon the appointment of Medline in January. In June, Keay will transition to a new role as EVP of technology and lead of the transformation office, overseeing the company’s efforts as it moves to restructure the way it does business, Sobeys said.

Earlier this year, Medline was appointed to lead Canada’s second largest grocer on a turnaround. He lauded Vels for his experience managing companies in transition.

“I am thrilled to welcome Mike Vels to Empire. He is an accomplished executive, one of the country’s most respected CFOs and a highly results-oriented leader,” Medline said in a statement. “He is uniquely qualified for his new role as he understands the Canadian food business and has served on the front lines of important and successful corporate transformation initiatives.”

Vels most recently served as CFO of the utility firm Hydro One, where he played an instrumental role in that organization’s initial public offering in 2015. From 2004 to 2014, he served as Maple Leaf Foods’ CFO, where he led the company's finance, mergers and acquisitions, information technology and communications functions, supporting the transformation of Maple Leaf as it implemented new systems, invested in manufacturing and supply chain initiatives. In 2014, he was named Maple Leafs’ chief transition officer, leading the restructuring of senior management and back office functions.

Vels was educated and earned his chartered accountant designation in South Africa, and prior to joining Maple Leaf Foods in 1991 worked in public accounting and mergers and acquisitions in South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Keay served as Sobeys’ head of IT from 2002 to 2014 before being appointed EVP, finance. He will continue to report to Medline and serve on the company’s leadership committee.

"Clinton is an accomplished leader and is knowledgeable on all fronts of our business. His deep experience in technology and in overseeing important change in our organization will ensure that we drive innovation that will delight our customers. I want to thank Clinton for the superb job he did as Interim CFO during some trying times," Medline said.

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