Stanley Ma, who used a series of acquisitions to build a massive collection of small and midsized restaurant concepts, on Wednesday announced plans to retire as CEO of MTY Food Group this November.
The Canadian brand operator said that Eric Lefebvre, the company’s CFO, would take over at CEO once Ma retires. Ma will remain as the company’s chairman.
“Over the past decade, MTY assembled a strong leadership team to drive its business to new heights, but also in anticipation of this day,” Ma said in a statement. “We have been reiterating for many years that MTY is no longer a one-person company, but rather a team of 700 people.”
Ma said he would be “an active chairman,” helping guide MTY’s acquisition strategy while Lefebvre will execute the strategy and operate the restaurants.
MTY owns a massive collection of restaurant chains, most of them in Canada. But in 2016, Ma executed the company’s biggest deal when it acquired the Arizona-based Kahala Brands—itself a multibrand acquirer that had bought chains like Pinkberry, Planet Smoothie and Maui Wowi.
Kahala owns Cold Stone Creamery, Baja Fresh, La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill, Blimpie, Taco Time, America’s Taco Shop and Great Steak, among many others, and has since acquired burger chains The Counter and Built Custom Burgers.
Earlier this year, MTY completed an acquisition of Timothy’s World Coffee and Mmmuffins.
Ma opened his first restaurant in Montreal in 1979, opened a new brand four years later and in subsequent years opened a number of restaurant concepts. The company made its first acquisition, Fontaine Sante, in 1999.
MTY made numerous acquisitions in the following years, including the Kahala deal.
The company’s restaurants have 5,700 locations.
“I am still as passionate about MTY and about the restaurant industry as I was 39 years ago when MTY was founded,” Ma said. “But the time has come to continue my journey from MTY with a new perspective.”
He said that Lefebvre “has played a pivotal role in the company” over the past nine years and “his decisive leadership, management skills and great knowledge of our industry qualify him to be promoted into that role.”
MTY also said that Claude St-Pierre will step down from her role as MTY’s chief operating officer when Ma retires, to execute the company’s acquisition strategy.
Lefebvre called Ma and St-Pierre “mentors.” He said the company will focus on identifying the best talent in the organization to continue the company’s growth.
“The company has changed tremendously during the last nine years,” he said. “The goal will be to select those people that can continue to carry the momentum.”