- Jon Vander Ark will become the next CEO of Republic Services, effective June 25, according to an announcement late Tuesday. Vander Ark will continue in his current role as president and join the company's board of directors.
- As part of the transition process, current CEO Don Slager will work "in a consulting capacity" through the end of year. His retirement caps off a 40-plus-year career in the industry, including more than 10 years as CEO.
- "I am energized for the opportunity to lead this strong Republic team and for what we expect to accomplish on the road ahead. We are off to a strong start to the year which is supported by the positive momentum in the business and macro factors that have been better than anticipated," said Vander Ark in a statement.
This widely telegraphed move marks a notable transition point for the industry's second-largest company as it ramps up a focus on technology investments, environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) initiatives and expansion via M&A.
This transition will also mark a full turnover of Republic's CEO, chief operating officer and chief financial officer roles in recent years, and is the latest of multiple leadership transitions at major solid waste companies. Waste Connections, Covanta, Waste Pro and Recology have also named new CEOs in the past two years for various reasons.
Vander Ark's ascension has been anticipated since his promotion to company president in May 2019. In a statement, Board Chairman Manny Kadre described "a robust, multi-year CEO succession planning process" that led to unanimous approval of the decision.
Following his time as a partner at consulting firm McKinsey & Company, Vander Ark joined Republic in 2013 as an executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He led the effort to update and unify Republic's branding, among other initiatives, before advancing to EVP of operations and later COO in 2018. According to Republic, Vander Ark's current portfolio includes overseeing the company's "ongoing transformation and continued growth, with responsibility for operations, sales, marketing, and business development."
Since becoming president, Vander Ark's public profile has continued to grow around ESG and related technology topics. He discussed climate change implications in a 2019 Waste Dive interview at WasteExpo, delivered an extended talk about the future business model of recycling at WASTECON later that year, took point on the company's racial justice statement last June and led the since-canceled electric truck partnership with Nikola over the summer.
Vander Ark has also increasingly taken the lead on these topics and others in company earnings calls. In fact, a recent Jefferies analysis found Vander Ark accounted for slightly more of the words spoken during 2020 earnings call than Slager, versus in 2019 when Slager spoke an estimated two-thirds of the time. Given this gradual transition, analysts don't anticipate any major near-term changes under Vander Ark's leadership.
After working as a truck washer, Slager's full-time waste industry career began in 1980 at a maintenance shop. He then worked as a driver, before moving up through various roles and joining National Waste Services in 1985. Following that company's acquisition by Allied Waste Industries, Slager's rise continued and he eventually become COO in 2002. In that role, he helped lead the major Allied-Republic merger in 2008.
Since becoming CEO in 2011, Slager has been one of the industry's most prominent and highest paid executives. During that time, annual revenue grew from $8.19 billion in 2011 to $10.15 billion in 2020 (down slightly from 2019 given pandemic effects) and financial analysts have viewed his leadership favorably.
"We've built a durable foundation from which the Company can continue to prosper," said Slager in a statement, crediting Vander Ark's work on sales, digital operations and other areas. "His innovative spirit and passion for sustainability are great attributes. I have every confidence Jon will continue to position Republic as an industry leader throughout the Company's next chapter."