Former Ottawa Senators president Cyril Leeder will take the wheel at Myers Automotive Group as the organization’s first CEO, a move that keeps the well-known businessman right where he wants to be: Ottawa.
Starting Sept. 4, Leeder will oversee the operations and long-term strategies for the Ottawa-based company, which currently has 17 dealership locations and roughly 1,000 employees. Leeder tells OBJ that he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to step into the driver’s seat of a sizeable, family-run business such as Myers Auto Group.
“It’s a rare opportunity,” he says.
Co-owners Harry and Robert Mews announced Leeder’s position in a release Monday morning, citing him as a “community leader” who will “bring a unique perspective to the rapidly changing automotive retail industry.”
The Myers owners first contacted Leeder last fall about the possibility of stepping into a senior leadership role at the company. While the exact position of chief executive wasn’t formalized until just last week, he says the objective has always been to establish a strategic direction for the company.
"It's a disruption that you know is coming, you can see it, so you have an opportunity to plan for it."
The new chief sees challenges on the horizon for all automotive dealerships: electric cars and autonomous vehicles are primed to disrupt existing sales models in the coming decades.
Automotive may be a new industry for Leeder, but an old adage from his hockey days still informs his approach: you don’t look at where the puck is; you look at where it’s going.
“It’s a disruption that you know is coming, you can see it, so you have an opportunity to plan for it.”
Free agency over
Leeder, alongside Bruce Firestone and Randy Sexton, founded the modern iteration of the Ottawa Senators in 1992. He took on the chief operating officer position in 2002 and served as president from 2009 to 2017, at which point he was replaced at the top by Tom Anselmi.
When he left the club, Leeder said he was looking forward to “free agency,” but gave few details about his future at the time.
There were “a few discussions” with other NHL clubs after he left the Senators, Leeder says, but his attachment to Ottawa trumped any desire to stay in hockey.
“I really want to stay here in Ottawa,” he says.
Others in the capital shared that very sentiment when he left the Sens.
Mayor Jim Watson said he hoped a local company would snap up the venerable community leader who, in addition to serving on the boards of various businesses and charities in Ottawa, played a significant role in attracting major sporting events to the city. Leeder also led major development projects such as the Ottawa Convention Centre and the Senators’ current arena, now known as the Canadian Tire Centre.
Senators partner Firestone told OBJ then about how Leeder’s contributions saved the Senators franchise on numerous occasions. He added that his friend still “has a lot to contribute,” and that he’s looking forward to the next chapter.
Leeder says he occupied his time after the Sens with some private equity collaborations. Last month, for example, he and former OSEG chief Bernie Ashe bought a stake in Ottawa’s Deslaurier Custom Cabinets.
Meanwhile, Leeder has been co-chair of former Ottawa Champions president David Gourlay’s campaign for city council in Kanata North.
Elsewhere on Monday, Leeder was announced as one of the founding board members on the newly merged Ottawa Board of Trade, having previously served with the Ottawa Chamber of Commerce.