2019-04-03

Long serving High Liner executive, Henry Demone, set to retire

by Charles Mandel

Henry Demone, the long-time High Liner Foods Incorporated chairman, will step down from the Lunenburg company's board of directors in May. High Liner announced the change in a news release on March 29. Robert Pace, chair of the board's audit committee and a board director will replace Demone.

"On behalf of High Liner and the Board, I'd like to thank Henry for his decades of service, leadership and vision," David Hennigar, vice chairman, said in the release.

"Henry is a true pioneer of our industry. His contributions to High Liner and the industry at large over the last 35 years are innumerable. We have seen High Liner grow, reinvent itself, and become North America's largest marketer of frozen, value-added seafood products. It has been a pleasure serving with Henry and we all wish him happiness and good health in his retirement."

Demone, who previously worked as High liner's CEO from 1992 to 2015, replaced Keith Decker in 2017. Decker served as CEO from 2015 to 2017.

"It's been an honour to serve in various capacities at High Liner over the years – this is truly a special company, with humble roots, great people, and a bright future," said Demone. "High Liner has evolved, grown, and faced its share of challenges as the industry went through good times and bad.

"Throughout, I'm proud of the way that High Liner has persevered, maintaining its customer-focused and innovative drive that has stood at the centre of everything we've done since we started almost 120 years ago. While it's difficult to say goodbye, I know that High Liner is well positioned to return to profitable organic growth under the first-class leadership of our CEO, Rod Hepponstall."

Pace is the president and CEO of The Pace Group Limited, a private holding company, and chairman of Maritime Broadcasting System, which owns and operates 23 radio stations in the Maritimes. Mr. Pace is also chairman of the Board of Directors of Canadian National Railway Company and a director of several private companies.

Demone's Board seat will not be replaced and the number of Board seats will be reduced to 10 for 2019. In a press release High Liner said that it "believes that this is an appropriate Board size and is well-aligned with the now-restructured and streamlined High Liner Foods."

"In recognition of the ongoing headwinds facing the company, and in keeping with the strategic focus of the organization as exemplified by its critical initiatives, the Board has made the decision to lower costs by reducing its director compensation. Following the AGM, the annual cash retainer for non-executive directors in 2019 will be reduced by CAD$35,000."

The "ongoing headwinds" undoubtedly include the fallout from the recall of a number of breaded fish fillet lines because of an undeclared milk allergen from one its U.S.-based ingredient suppliers in 2017, which hurt the company's bottom line at the time.

Demone also told investors in November 2017, that "most notably, sales volume and profit margins decreased in our Canadian business on a year-over-year basis, partially due to low product availability following the recall that hindered our ability to fully promote certain higher-margin products with retailers during the third quarter."

Following the AGM, Hennigar will step down from his role as vice chairman, but will remain a director on the board.

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