Rick Toppin

Rick Toppin
SP Richards

2018: SP Richards (SPR) CEO Rick Toppin has had what you might call a rollercoaster type of a year. With parent Genuine Parts Company (GPC) being clear about its intention to divest the OP wholesaler, it all looked like a done deal when it was confirmed in April that SPR and Essendant had entered into a definitive agreement to merge the two companies.

That was before Sycamore Partners threw a spanner in the works in May and declared Staples’ bid for Essendant.

After months of toing and froing, the SPR/Essendant deal is certainly off now. What that means for Toppin and his team remains to be seen. On the plus side, some kind of exodus of dealers away from Essendant – if it’s Staples-owned – and to SPR is likely. Good news in terms of revenues which are likely to go up exponentially with more dealers on board. It also begs the question as to whether divestment of the business remains a priority for GPC. Considerably more dealers could ultimately lead to capacity issues as well, of course.

There’s no doubt that SPR’s size is dwarfed by a combined Essendant/Staples entity should the deal be approved. Toppin and his team at this year’s ABC in San Antonio, Texas, repeatedly highlighted the need for more involved cooperation with dealers which is likely to include equity partnerships, meaning SPR buying minority stakes in independents. It would be no surprise to have more news on that front before the year is out.

Away from wholesale discussions, Toppin had a hugely successful year as the City of Hope 2018 Spirit of Life honouree, helping to raise a record-breaking $15.1 million for the California-based clinic and medical research institute with his Generations for Hope campaign.

2017: A new face in our Top 100, but certainly not a new face in our industry. Rick Toppin took over from Wayne Beacham at the beginning of this year when his predecessor retired and he became CEO of SP Richards (SPR).

Even before taking the top spot at the US wholesaler, Toppin already had a long and extended career in the business products industry, spending the first 19 years with Moore Corporation (now part of RR Donnelly) and then in 1999 joining Corporate Express (CE) as a Division President. Having spent a couple of years in Canada as President of CE in the country, he returned to the US in 2007 and joined SPR in 2008 as EVP of Sales & Marketing.

SPR’s results over the past two quarters are best described as “satisfactory”. Parent Genuine Parts Company and Toppin himself certainly like to play their cards close to the chest, with Toppin referring to “pleasing” sales growth but downward margin pressure and increasing cost to serve. Both of the latter continue to place additional pressure on profits. For the six months to 30 June 2017, SPR’s sales were up 6.8% year on year to $1.02 billion while operating profit fell 8.4% to $61.2 million.

Having already been very acquisitive over the past few years – which has already helped boost the top line – the wholesaler continues to be on the lookout for further opportunities, particularly in the fast-growing Facility, Breakroom and Safety (FBS) segment where it’s also posting “solid” organic sales increases. FBS is now SPR’s strongest-performing category and accounts for 36% of total revenues.

In addition to his role at SPR, Toppin is a dedicated member of the City of Hope National Business Products Council and has been named the 2018 Spirit of Life honouree.