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Mark Holly to become Crombie REIT CEO as Don Clow retires

Don Clow will retire as president and CEO of Crombie REIT on Feb. 28. (Courtesy Crombie REIT)
Don Clow will retire as president and CEO of Crombie REIT on Feb. 28. (Courtesy Crombie REIT)

Don Clow will end his 13.5-year tenure as Crombie REIT’s (CRR-UN-T) top executive on Feb. 28 and be succeeded by current Empire senior vice-president Mark Holly, the trust has announced.

Holly will assume the titles of president and chief executive officer. To assist in the transition, Clow will remain as a strategic advisor through early 2025.

"For almost 14 years, I have had the privilege of serving as Crombie's president and CEO," Clow said in the announcement late Thursday. "In my time at Crombie, I've worked with a team of high-performing, caring people who are incredibly dedicated to their work and to the communities in which we operate. 

“Over five years ago, we set an ambitious strategic goal of completing six major development projects, all while maintaining our commitment to a strong balance sheet, optimal portfolio quality, and an enhanced relationship with our strategic partner, Empire. We have succeeded in achieving those goals and it is time for a new leader to set the course for the future. 

“Mark is an incredibly well-rounded and experienced real estate executive. He is a collaborative leader and values the team and culture we have built at Crombie. I look forward to cheering on Crombie's continued success in the years ahead.”

Clow led Crombie transformation

The changes are the culmination of a review of senior management roles, structure and succession planning initiated by Crombie’s board in 2021.

Part of the review involved employing a talent advisory firm to assist in identifying and evaluating CEO succession candidates. Holly was identified as part of this process.

"On behalf of the board of trustees, I would like to extend our sincere gratitude and appreciation to Don, who has transformed Crombie from a traditional grocery-anchored retail landlord into a strategic owner and developer of grocery-anchored retail, retail-related industrial, and mixed-use residential properties across Canada," said Michael Knowlton, board chair, in the announcement.

"Under Don's leadership, total unitholder returns over the last three, five and 10 years have been sector-leading. 

“He leaves the REIT in a far stronger position than when he arrived and has set us up for success as we embark on the next leg of our journey."

Holly to become president, CEO

Holly will transition from Empire into the new role on March 1. Empire is a major shareholder in Crombie REIT, which owns and operates many of the company’s retail and distribution properties.

"Crombie has an outstanding track record of delivering for its tenants, development partners, employees and unitholders and I could not be more excited to join this winning team," Holly said in the release.

"In my role at Empire over the past five years, I've had the opportunity to work closely with Crombie's executive team, which has given me a window into the strategy and culture of the organization, and I couldn't be more optimistic about the opportunities that lie ahead of us."

"Mark is a strategic leader with a proven track record of more than 20 years in real estate development, operations and capital management, and we are thrilled to announce that he is joining Crombie as our next president and CEO,” Knowlton said in the announcement.

“He is recognized within the industry as an exceptional communicator, collaborator and relationship-builder, and has deep expertise across the entire real estate development cycle.”

As senior vice-president, real estate and strategic sourcing for the past five years with Empire (the owner of the Sobeys grocery chain and its various banners), Holly led the retailer’s real estate business.

“His significant experience leading major development projects at TACC Developments, Tim Hortons, Restaurant Brands International and Empire will be critical to unlocking substantial value from the REIT's deep pipeline of 27 development projects as we continue to deliver on Crombie's successful strategy of building and owning quality real estate that enhances local communities and generates long-term growth,” Knowlton said in the release.

Holly's industry experience

Holly began his career with TACC Developments, where he oversaw commercial and industrial development programs. 

In 2006, he joined The TDL Group (Tim Hortons) and later RBI, where he led real estate strategy, successfully increasing store count by 50 per cent. 

In 2016, he joined Restaurant Development Partners, the area representative and developer of Tim Hortons in Minnesota, as president. In 2018, he was appointed senior vice-president, real estate and was later promoted to the Empire executive committee.

During his time at Empire, Holly developed its real estate strategy, instituted a new capital management committee and governance model and designed Empire's 10-year execution strategy to achieve its Climate Action Plan targets. 

He led the real estate team in the acquisition and integration of Farm Boy and Longos.

He’ll take the helm of one of the country's largest owners, operators and developers of real estate, Crombie's portfolio is focused on grocery-anchored retail, retail-related industrial, and mixed-used residential properties in Canadian urban and suburban markets. 

As of Dec. 31, its portfolio comprised 289 income-producing properties encompassing approximately 18.4 million square feet and a pipeline of future development projects.

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