LANGLEY, British Columbia (Oct. 17, 2001)—OK Tire Stores Inc. President Don Blythe soon will retire from the tire industry. Well, sort of.
OK Tire's board of directors recently named former Bombardier Inc. executive Ken MacLeod CEO of the Langley-based dealer-owned cooperative and the successor to 62-year-old Mr. Blythe, who will work as Mr. MacLeod's consultant until his scheduled retirement in March 2003. But Mr. Blythe doesn't plan to exit the tire industry to shore up his golf game. Rather, he wants to succeed Mel Hennig as executive director of the Western Canada Tire Dealers (WCTD) association.
“It's in my blood and so, therefore, I guess I just can't say I'm finished and walk away,” Mr. Blythe told Tire Business. “I need to work my way down.”
Though the WCTD's board would need to approve that move, Mr. Blythe said he's hopeful they will agree to allow him to head up the association. It's a desire he's expressed to Mr. Hennig, who acknowledged that he's ready to retire now, but is hanging on until one month after Mr. Bythe's retirement from OK Tire.
Mr. Blythe said the position probably would fit him better than running an OK Tire franchise he owns in Burnaby, British Columbia.
“(The store's staff) have already told me that they don't want me there. It runs very well without me,” Mr. Blythe said lightheartedly.
Mr. Blythe will stay on at OK Tire until 2003—when the company will celebrate its 50th anniversary. He said that while Mr. MacLeod will run the dealership's day-to-day operations, he will keep busy with a few projects, including overseeing the writing and publication of a hardcover book chronicling OK Tire's history. That book will be part of the company's anniversary celebration and will be distributed to both franchisees and suppliers, he said.
Getting his industry start with Goodyear in 1957, Mr. Blythe worked for the tire maker's industrial products division, first in Saskatchewan then in Manitoba. He remained with Goodyear until 1972 when he joined OK Tire—then owned by Ashland Oil—and became general manager in 1973, about the time Ashland Oil began to sell the dealership to its retailers.
Mr. Blythe remained as general manager until 1979, when he left to start his own OK Tire franchise in Burnaby. However, he was elected to the company's board the following year and was named managing director in 1985. The board later named him company president.
Under his leadership, the co-op has grown from 49 stores in 1974 to operating 218 stores—all franchises—in every province except Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, with 2000 sales of $140.2 million (U.S.).
Mr. Blythe noted that most of that growth has occurred in the past 10 years and that the OK group has much to look forward to with Mr. MacLeod at the helm.
“I think we have some exciting times ahead of us under his leadership,” he said of Mr. MacLeod, who joined OK Tire as senior vice president in January. He replaced Gordon Bevington, who was originally tapped to succeed Mr. Blythe, but died of a heart attack in June 2000.
Mr. MacLeod came to OK Tire from Bombardier, a Canadian firm that makes snowmobiles and aircraft, Mr. Blythe said. He had no tire industry experience prior to joining OK Tire, but “definitely has the management skills we were looking for,” Mr. Blythe said.
Originally, OK Tire's board had planned to name Mr. MacLeod CEO in 2002, but decided to speed up the appointment, Mr. Blythe said. “They figured that they need some new ideas, so they gotta get rid of the old and come in with the new, I guess,” he said with a laugh.