DUBLIN: Gavin Slark is to become Grafton Group's new chief executive officer.

Mr Slark, previously group chief executive of BSS Group, a leading UK distributor to specialist trades including the plumbing, heating and construction sectors, will succeed Michael Chadwick. He will join the Group and the board as chief executive designate on 1 April 2011 and will be appointed CEO on 1 July.

Michael Chadwick will continue as chairman of the board in a non-executive capacity from July. He has been executive chairman of Grafton since 1985 and some time ago advised the board of his intention to retire as an executive on completion of the search for a successor.

Leo Martin, executive director and chief operating officer, has also advised the board of his intention to retire at the end of the year. He was due to retire in August on reaching the age of 60 but has agreed to extend his contract until December to enable him to familiarise Mr Slark with the Group's operations, particularly in Ireland. Mr. Martin joined Grafton when it acquired Heiton Group plc in 2005.

Mr Slark, 45, was appointed group chief executive of BSS in 2006 following periods as chief operating officer and managing director of BSS's largest operating division, PTS Plumbing Trade Supplies.

He developed BSS into a leading UK force in its sector, opening in excess of 160 new outlets and completing several strategic acquisitions. He maintained revenue growth throughout the recession, strong profitability and cash generation, while maintaining or increasing the dividend. In late 2010, BSS was acquired by Travis Perkins.

Commenting on the appointment, Michael Chadwick, said: "We are very pleased to appoint a group chief executive of the calibre of Gavin Slark. He has a depth of experience and proven track record as a CEO in our sector.

"He has indicated that his priority will be to keep Grafton focused on meeting the challenge of an uncertain economic climate while positioning the Group for future growth. His experience complements that of our existing strong management team and I look forward to working with him in the continued development of the Group.

"We will be losing the valuable service of Leo Martin at the end of the year following his decision to retire. Leo has made a major contribution to the Group. His expertise has been a key element in the successful integration of the Heiton operations with those of Grafton.

"In addition, his role in directing Grafton's merchanting operations across both Ireland and the UK has been central to the Group's ability to manage its affairs throughout the current severe recession. We are pleased that he has agreed to continue to be available to the Group after his retirement in an advisory capacity."

Roderick Ryan, senior independent director, said: "Michael Chadwick's record has been outstanding by any standards. When he was appointed executive chairman in 1985, the Group was a subsidiary of a multi-national with sales of less than €60m, had negligible EPS and a share price the equivalent of 7 cents.

"Under his leadership Grafton has become a leading Irish quoted company, the market leader in its sector and has grown strongly internationally to become the third largest builders' merchant in the UK. The board is pleased that we will continue to have the benefit of his unique experience and knowledge of the business as non-executive chairman."