Polyconcept Announces New CEO; Bernstein Retires

As first reported this week in a Breaking News Alert, Top 40 supplier Polyconcept, the largest global supplier of promotional products, has announced that Michael Bernstein has stepped down as the company’s CEO. Gene Colleran, formerly the CEO of Griffon Home and Building Products, a $900 million global division within the publicly-held Griffon Corp., will take over full responsibilities for the organization, which includes Polyconcept North America (PCNA), PFConcept and Polyconcept International Markets (PCIM). The appointment is effective immediately. 

“We’re fortunate to be able to make this transition on our own terms from a position of strength,” said Bernstein, a past Counselor International Person of the Year award winner. “We’re growing and healthy with an exciting future ahead. After 10 years at Polyconcept, I’m personally ready to step aside and welcome Gene as our next group leader to continue our positive momentum. He has a proven track record of success and brings a diverse set of experience to our organization. I’m confident that his vision, leadership and expertise will contribute to our continued success.”

Bernstein, who actively sought and interviewed candidates to be his successor, told Counselor in an exclusive interview that he felt as though the time was right to leave. “The board asked me to take on the CEO role three years ago in the midst of the European Crisis, which was creating many challenges for Polyconcept,” he said. “In the last three years, we’ve successfully repositioned our European business to be profitably growing again and quite healthy. We’ve also divested a number of non-core businesses while investing in new initiatives and technologies that will drive our core supplier business into the future. Additionally, I’ve worked to recruit some great new leaders into the company to ensure that our success will continue for years to come. With these accomplishments behind me, I’m ready to let some new blood and energy take us forward.”

David Nicholson, Counselor’s 2014 Person of the Year, remains the head of PCNA as its president. “My role will remain very much consistent with my responsibilities as they were under Michael as CEO,” Nicholson told Counselor. “We have a number of exciting initiatives underway – from our Trimark apparel expansion to the recent HumphreyLine acquisition to making significant investments in our digital capabilities and technology platforms. My focus will remain very much on driving these forward and building on our successful distributor relationships in the U.S. and Canada.” 

Nicholson also noted that there are no other changes planned within the PCNA leadership team. “We have a passionate, experienced team with a well-defined strategy in place. Our objective of building a better and stronger PCNA hasn’t changed, and I’m looking forward to working with Gene to realize that vision,” he said.

Colleran, who prior to Griffon held various leadership positions at Newell Rubbermaid and who will now be based in Pittsburgh, told Counselor that as a newcomer to the industry, his immediate focus will be to gain a deeper understanding of the market, its customers and the business. “I’m in the enviable position of inheriting a well-positioned, healthy company with a strong management team,” Colleran said. “Under Michael’s leadership, Polyconcept has undertaken a number of positive changes and has established itself as a global leader. My goals for Polyconcept are quite simple – to build upon its positive momentum today, to ensure it has the resources needed for future growth, and to support the team in realizing our vision.”

Bernstein – who started at Leed’s, the company his father co-founded, in 1992 – will pursue interests completely outside of the industry, but will remain on Polyconcept’s executive board of directors. “I’m an active investor through my family office that I established with my father and brother in 2004,” he said. “In addition to my board responsibilities at Polyconcept, I’ll be focusing my energies on some of our investments, as well as doing more non-profit and other board work.”

PCNA ranks third on Counselor’s Top 40 list of the largest suppliers in the North American ad specialty industry. The company reported to Counselor recently that its revenues for 2014 totaled $526.1 million, an 11.4% increase over 2013.