Winston-Salem, N.C. — The Nationwide Marketing Group’s first-generation management team has formally handed off the reins to its second-gen successors.
Robert Weisner, who helped create the organization in its current incarnation, and Les Kirk, who directed its finances for some 15 years, have retired as co-CEOs, effective immediately.
The pair have been succeeded by Dave Bilas, who has been promoted from president/COO to CEO, and executive VP Jeff Knock, who was promoted to chief commercial officer.
In addition, senior electronics VP Tom Hickman and member services senior VP Frank Sandtner were both named executive VPs.
Dawn Carpenter continues on the executive team as chief financial officer.
The changes follow a three-year succession plan announced by the $15 billion merchandising and marketing group in late 2013.
“This transition once again demonstrates Nationwide’s knack for seamless succession,” said Bilas, a former GE Appliance sales VP who joined the group in 2011. “Our entire leadership team looks forward to the exciting challenges and opportunities ahead.”
Knock, a former Electrolux sales director who also joined Nationwide in 2011, added that the group is “even more prepared to guide the continuous evolution of our … strategies, enabling us to meet the evolving needs of our members and vendor partners. We see the timing of this transition as a great fit with overall industry shifts, presenting our group with tremendous growth opportunities.”
Weisner and Kirk will continue as executive directors of the group, which they helped grow to some 3,800 independent dealer members with over 11,000 storefronts.
Weisner follows his brother-in-law and Nationwide co-founder Ed Kelly, who retired in 2011. The two met when Weisner went to work for Kelly’s father’s business, Ed Kelly Appliance & TV, which they later acquired. The company — along with hhgregg, P.C. Richard & Son, and Lee Guttman’s Wonder Sales — was a founding dealer of Nationwide forerunner Nationwide TV & Appliance Associates, created in 1971.
Separately, Kelly and Weisner also founded the Southeastern Businessman’s Assn. (SEBA), which later merged with Nationwide to form the present-day Nationwide Marketing Group (NMG). The brothers-in-law took the helm in 2003 following the death of president and co-founder Guttman.
Kirk formally joined the team about 15 years ago after his consultancy, RFS, began providing financial services to Nationwide members in the late 1990s.
The group’s leadership transition comes on the eve of Nationwide’s biannual PrimeTime convention and trade show Aug. 2-5 at the Venetian hotel in Las Vegas. The event, held under the theme of “Game Changer,” is expected to emphasize the group’s aggressive take-share strategy for members.