PoolCorp CEO Manuel Perez de la Mesa
PoolCorp CEO Manuel Perez de la Mesa

Manuel Perez de la Mesa, who has manned the helm of megadistributor PoolCorp for nearly 20 years, will step down from his CEO post at the end of this year.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, Perez de la Mesa will become vice chairman of the board of directors, helping to develop long-term strategy, determine major asset allocations, and guide senior management for the publicly traded company. That position will not entail a management role.

Retiring relatively young, at 61 years of age, Perez de la Mesa said he wanted to hand off the reins well before he begins to slow down. He said planning for this transition began about three years ago.

“Given the strength of the team, where we are in our evolution, and the fact that I’ve been running the company 20 years ... all those played into my thinking that this is the right time to turn it over, when everything is positive: my health, my intensity, my energy and my mind,” he said.

In his place, the board has named current executive vice president and COO Peter D. Arvan. He who joined the company in January 2017 after serving as CEO of Roofing Supply Group. At PoolCorp, he originally served as executive vice president primarily responsible for North American operations, then took on the COO title later that year.

Perez de la Mesa said that, during that time, he has worked closely with Arvan on company strategy, business operations and corporate culture.

“I am confident that, with [Arvan’s] leadership skills, along with a deep and seasoned executive team, PoolCorp will continue to deliver outstanding results,” he said.

When Perez de la Mesa joined the company as its COO in early 1999, it was called SCP Pool Corporation (for South Central Pool), and primarily served the South. Pool/spa products distribution existed in a much more fragmented state at the time. Under Perez de la Mesa’s watch, the company undertook an acquisition campaign of more than a decade, absorbing competing chains such as National Pool Tile, as well as countless independent operators. It also became an international company, expanding into Mexico and Canada, then South America, Europe and Australia. It also entered the irrigation supply space.

The company currently reports operating 360 locations around the world.

On the investor side, the company saw a net sales compounded annual growth rate of 10% and return on invested capital of 29% during Perez de la Mesa’s tenure.

He said he immediately saw the potential for PoolCorp to achieve its explosive growth even while interviewing to join the distributorship. As the head of an air-conditioning distributor at the time, he saw unique characteristics in the industry.

“You have an industry characteristic where the penetration of pools at 10 to 11% of single-family households is a fraction of its long-term potential,” he said. “That’s a dynamic that makes it unique.”

Seeing this potential, he developed a list of goals for the company before his first day on the job. “For the first 10 years or so that I was in the company, we worked on that list,” he said. “We didn’t get them all done in the first 10 years but we’ve gotten almost all of them done at this juncture.”

For the remainder of his term as CEO, Perez de la Mesa will complete plans for 2019 and lay groundwork for 2020 and 2021.

For the past 20 years, he has commuted between his primary home in South Florida and another in PoolCorp’s headquarter town of Covington, La. Starting Jan. 1, 2019, he will spend more time at his Florida residence and plans to serve on other boards of directors and in other strategic capacities.

But he plans to remain with PoolCorp in his new capacity for quite some time. “It’s a very special industry,” he said. “Some of the characteristics of the industry are truly unique in the context of the business world. That’s what attracted me, and we’ve been working on that ever since.”