Chief operating officer Bill Myrick took over today as chief executive officer of ProBuild, declaring America's No. 2 LBM operation will retain its current strategies in the face of a prolonged housing recession. Myrick succeeds Paul Hylbert, who has run the Denver-based company January 2007 and now will serve as a senior adviser and remain a member of ProBuild's board of directors.

ProBuild Bill-Myrick

"First and foremost, our strategy has not changed" as a result of the management change, Myrick stressed in an interview with ProSales. "We're continuing with the strategy that we've designed. Our management team, our board and ownership continue to believe in the long-term strength of the housing market. We have a long-term view, and while the short-term environment is difficult, housing will recover as employment grows again along with the general economy. ... What we want to do is become the place where the best customers want to buy, the best vendors want to do business with, and the best people want to come to work."

Myrick said ProBuild will continue to work on improving its operating peformance, which he said includes increasing market share--a goal that Hylbert has often listed as one of the company's priorities. Myrick also said ProBuild will continue to develop its shared services model, which basically dictates which responsibilities are handled at the corporate, regional, and local levels. One such shared service is the company's ERP (enterprise resource planning) computer system, which the company is counting on not only to standardize financial reporting but also help boost profits.

Myrick, 49, joined ProBuild in February 2007 as senior vice president of strategic initiatives and moved into the COO position in June 2008. He has been involved in lumber and building materials for more nearly 30 years, most of it at 84 Lumber. He and Hylbert confirmed today the long-held belief among industry insiders that Myrick was hired three years ago to eventually take Hylbert's place. Hylbert, 66, said it made sense to make the change today because the company is going through its annual operations planning process.

"This is a really logical time for Bill and his team to take ownership," Hylbert said. "We've been working on this transition for quite some time. Bill has been with us for 3-1/2 years and it's definitely something that we planned and orchestrated."

There won't be a new COO named, Myrick said. Instead, Jim Cavanaugh, president of ProBuild's South Central region, will handle many of the operations duties out of his Tulsa, Okla., office by dint of his having been named last month as executive vice president for operations.

Hylbert said that as a special adviser he'll be supporting Myrick and the managers, working on the board of directors, and assisting with ProBuild's corporate parent--Devonshire Investors, a unit of Fidelity Investments--as it reviews the building products industry.

"I feel very fortunate to have joined ProBuild at its inception and to have productively spent nearly five years in the development of the company," Hylbert said in a company news release. "Bill's broad industry and leadership experience positions him well to lead ProBuild into its next phase of development."

ProBuild ranked No. 1 on the this year's ProSales 100, published in May, with sales in 2009 of $3.2 billion, 87% of it to pros. Since then, No. 2 ABC Supply's acquisition of No. 4 Bradco Supply moved it to the top slot and ProBuild to second place. (this year's ProSales 100) ProBuild operates out of roughly 470 facilities and has more than 11,000 employees.

Last November, the Reuters news agency quoted a confidential prospectus as saying Fidelity had spent $345 million over the previous six months to cover losses at the dealer and was likely to pay another $105 million through January to buttress ProBuild. (Story) Since then, sources familiar with ProBuild's operations have noted that Fidelity's $450 million expenditure reflected investments the fund was making, such as in ProBuild's ERP system and its acquisitions of lumberyards and outside sales reps, as much or more as it was meant to cover operations losses.