By Ogi Overman
Billy Prim planned to step down May 31 as chief executive officer of Primo Water, the Winston-Salem-based bottled-water distributor that he started in 2004 after selling his propane-gas business for $343 million. Matt Sheehan, who joined the company five years ago as chief operating officer, is the new president and CEO in what the company calls “part of its established leadership succession plan.” Prim, 61, will remain with the firm as executive chairman.
While no explanation was given for the leadership change, a statement from Prim notes, “I am very excited about where the company is positioned today and believe Matt is the best person to oversee the next stage of growth for Primo.”
Primo Water went public in 2010 and now has more than 45,000 locations across the U.S. and Canada. The building process has proven challenging, with the company posting annual losses until breaking into the black in 2015. Shares of Primo trade close to the $12 initial public offering price more than six years ago, but with improved sales and profit, shares have nearly tripled over the last three years. First-quarter sales jumped 88% to $60.7 million following the company’s $273 million acquisition of California-based Glacier Water Services in December.
Before joining Primo, Sheehan, 43, worked for 20 years at Coinstar, which has been renamed Outerwall. The company converts loose coins into paper currency and also owns the Redbox DVD-rental service.
A Yadkin County native, Prim bought a heating-oil distributorship in the late 1970s. When a Wal-Mart manager in Elkin asked about the possibility of an on-site propane exchange, he developed the idea for Blue Rhino. The company went public in 1998, and six years later he sold it to Overland Park, Kan.-based Ferrellgas.
Prim is Primo Water’s biggest shareholder, owning stock valued at about $31 million in mid-May. At the time, the company’s market value was about $360 million.
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