began to change when Denis Abrams
took over as CEO in 2007.
Abrams had joined Benjamin Moore 12 years before-which made him a relative neophyte by the company's standards-after Moore acquired his family's technical coatings company.
, now 65, was a departure from the company's past management.
A native of South Africa with an MBA, a Ph.D. in chemical engineering, and an ambitious, impatient temperament, he
brought modern management to the venerable company.
Several former Moore executives believe Abrams's
strategy was sound.
Valspar, they point out, sells through both independent dealers and big boxes, with success.
, who had the misfortune of taking over just before the financial crisis of 2008 crushed the sales of anything relating to houses, earned praise for running the company leanly during trying times.
began experimenting with new sales channels-only to meet resistance from Moore's dealers.
In 2010, for example, the company launched an online paint store.
The announcement prompted angry calls and a petition from Moore's dealers.
In part because of that backlash, the company later modified the e-store so that customers order online but pick up their paints from a Moore dealer.
also struck a deal to sell a new paint line called Origins
exclusively at hardware retailer Canadian Tire Supply
was edging ever closer to the big boxes and, up to that point, nobody at Berkshire had raised a protest.
Then, in the spring of 2012, Abrams took a step too far: He was nearing a deal to begin selling Moore paints at Lowe's.
found out, though not from Abrams