Hechinger chief operating officer quits


Hechinger Co., a Landover-based chain of home-improvement stores, said yesterday that its chief operating officer, Stephen E. Bachand, had resigned to become president and chief executive of a large Canadian chain of tire stores.

Mr. Bachand's departure means that Hechinger's chief executive, John Hechinger Jr., will take a more active role in the day-to-day operations of a company with an increasingly trimmed-down management structure.

Mr. Hechinger said yesterday that he would not replace Mr. Bachand as chief operating officer. Instead, the presidents of the company's three operating divisions -- Home Quarters Warehouse, Hechinger Stores and Triangle Building Centers -- will report directly to him.

Company officials and analysts described Mr. Bachand's move to the top of Canadian Tire Corp. Ltd. as a logical one for a 54-year-old executive who had little prospect of rising to the head of a company where he has worked for nearly 30 years.

"He looked around -- his name was not Hechinger," said Kenneth M. Gassman Jr., an analyst with Davenport & Co. in Richmond, Va. John Hechinger Jr., 43, succeeded his father as chief executive in 1990.

Mr. Bachand's move to Canada is "positive for everybody," Mr. Gassman said. "John's learning to run the organization better and better," the analyst said. "I think John's becoming his own man."

Mr. Bachand, who also held the title of executive vice president at Hechinger, said yesterday that the chance to run his own show was "the main reason he would even think about leaving." He added that he did not seek the job but that he "got headhunted."

Canadian Tire is a Toronto-based chain with 27,000 employees and 425 stores spanning the country, from the Maritimes to British Columbia, said Mr. Bachand, who estimated its annual sales in U.S. dollars at about $2.6 billion.

Mr. Hechinger said Mr. Bachand's departure was amicable. The elimination of his position is in keeping with Mr. Hechinger's efforts to turn Hechinger's management into a no-frills operation.

Hechinger will save a considerable sum by eliminating the chief operating officer post. Budd Bugatch, an analyst with Raymond James in Jacksonville, Fla., said Hechinger's proxy statement showed that Mr. Bachand received $544,167 in cash compensation for the company's last fiscal year.

Hechinger executives are also set to begin Friday moving out of a new corporate headquarters building completed two years ago at a cost Mr. Hechinger estimated at between $20 million and $25 million.

They plan to move to smaller offices in the company's old headquarters building. The new building will be rented to a tenant.

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