The chief executive officer of Vancouver forestry giant Canfor Corp. has resigned after a move by major shareholders, including B.C. billionaire Jim Pattison, to force changes at the company, which has lagged rivals in both profit and acquisitions.
Jim Shepherd tendered his resignation yesterday but will stay on until the end of company's annual general meeting on May 4, the company said.
Mr. Shepherd was not available to comment. In a telephone interview, Canfor chairman Peter Bentley praised Mr. Shepherd's accomplishments, including settling the softwood lumber dispute between Canada and the U.S., and played down the suggestion that shareholders had pushed Mr. Shepherd out the door.
"This is a transition from where we have been to where the company is going," Mr. Bentley said, adding that Canfor has one of the best balance sheets in the industry and good prospects despite challenging market conditions that include a pine beetle epidemic that is ravaging the company's wood supply in British Columbia.
Mr. Bentley also dismissed any suggestion that new board members might want to see Canfor put up for sale, which some have speculated might be Mr. Pattison's preference for the company.
"That has never been discussed by the board, nor do we contemplate that as a possibility," Mr. Bentley said.
Mr. Shepherd's resignation follows a March 12 announcement that three major shareholders planned to back their own slate of directors at the company's annual meeting and vote against a shareholders' rights plan that had been previously approved by the board.
The shareholders were Mr. Pattison; Third Avenue Management LLC, a New York-based investment firm; and Matthews-Cartier Holdings Ltd., a holding company controlled by the company's founding Bentley and Prentice families. Together, the three shareholders own about 52 per cent of Canfor.
Analysts and industry observers read the shareholders' agreement as a sign that Mr. Pattison and others were looking for big changes at the company, which lost money in recent quarters and was among the worst-performing forestry stocks.
That interpretation gained traction when director Paul Tellier resigned on March 16.
Yesterday, Canfor announced a new slate of eight directors, including Mr. Pattison and Mr. Bentley, that will stand for election at the meeting in May.
Mr. Shepherd became CEO in 2004 after Canfor bought Slocan Forest Products Ltd. of which he had been chief executive.
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