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Alain Lemaire, president and chief executive officer of Cascades Inc. sits on a roll of tissue in the raw material section of the tissue plant in Kingsley Falls, Quebec on March 14, 2008.Christinne Muschi/The Globe and Mail

An era is coming to a close at Quebec paper products company Cascades Inc. as the three Lemaire brothers who built it into a global player hand over the reins to their chosen successor.

Cascades president and chief executive officer Alain Lemaire announced on Tuesday that he is stepping down in May, to be replaced by chief operating officer Mario Plourde.

His two brothers, Bernard and Laurent, founded the company -- which uses recycled fibres as its principal raw material -- 49 years ago.

Mr. Plourde – a longtime Cascades hand – had been groomed for the CEO role since a succession plan was announced two years ago.

"He was the fourth member of the Three Musketeers," Laurent Lemaire said at a news conference.

"This is a great honour they are giving to me," said Mr. Plourde.

"You can succeed the Lemaire brothers, but you can't replace them."

Alain Lemaire will stay on as executive chairman of the board and his brothers will also continue as directors.

The Lemaires will continue to have a role in decision-making at the Kingsey Falls, Que.,-based packaging and tissue products manufacturer.

Alain will act as an adviser to Mr. Plourde, 51, while Bernard and Laurent will continue to provide strategic planning input.

The Lemaires own about 30 per cent of Cascades common shares, and said they have no intention of changing that arrangement.

The Cascades story is legendary in Quebec: how Bernard and Laurent -- Alain joined them later -- and their father Antonio took over Kingsey Falls' shuttered paper mill and transformed it into a major producer with operations in the United States and Europe and annual sales close to $4-billion.

Founded in 1964, the company today employs about 12,000 worldwide in more than 100 facilities.

"After nearly ten years at the head of the company, my brothers and I feel it is time to pass on the torch and make room for the younger generation," said Alain, who is 65.

Mr. Plourde began his career at Cascades in 1985 and climbed the corporate ladder, holding positions as controller, plant manager and general manager. In 1997, he was named vice-president and chief operating officer of the specialty products group and was then its president from 2000 to 2010.

He has been COO since 2011.

"Given Mr. Plourde's substantial experience with Cascades, especially with respect to the oversight of operations in recent years, we believe he represents an excellent internal appointment to the role of president and CEO," Desjardins Securities analyst Pierre Lacroix said in a research note Tuesday.

"From a trading perspective, we expect the shares to have a neutral reaction to today's news since we believe that the eventual transition of day-to-day management of operations from the Lemaire family to an experienced internal candidate was broadly anticipated."

Editor's note. An earlier online version of this story incorrectly stated that the Lemaires control Cascades through multiple voting shares. This version has been corrected.

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