Michael Medline is a Canadian business leader recognized for spearheading historic, transformational change at two of Canada’s biggest retail companies. When COVID-19 spread throughout the world this year, his strengths as a team leader shone as never before. Medline’s ability to act decisively and communicate transparently motivated and inspired his 127,000 employees to work through a period of unprecedented challenge and rapid change.
When he took over the helm in 2017, Medline rallied Empire’s workforce behind his sweeping vision to revive the retailer, and executed one of the most effective turnaround strategies in Canadian retail history. He enacted a series of dramatic changes, engaging communication between previously siloed parts of the business, restructuring operations, developing a successful three-year plan to restore the company’s balance sheet and empowering its business leaders to make and execute smart decisions based on innovation and growth. Employee spirit soared. As the business worked through Medline’s restructuring roadmap, it launched a major sustainability initiative as the first national grocer to ban plastic bags, introduced a sensory-friendly shopping hour for those with autism and other sensory issues, and invested in a world-leading online grocery platform – Voilà by Sobeys. Voilà has completely disrupted the online grocery delivery space and offers Canadians a grocery shopping experience unparalleled to anything currently in market.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought Medline’s ability to inspire and empower his people into even sharper focus. With the grocer transforming into an essential service overnight, Medline acted quickly to steer employees through a challenging period that brought unprecedented surge in business. He mobilized leaders across the globe and at Empire’s national brands to be the first in Canada to implement new safety protocols, including plexiglass shields for cashiers and floor markers to encourage physical distancing. He cast a net out to struggling businesses to provide employment opportunities to Canadians. And he developed the Community Action Fund, empowering frontline managers at 1,500 stores across Canada to allocate millions of dollars of the retailer’s funds to causes most in need of help in their regions.
Medline began his career practicing law, working at the Ontario Securities Commission and PepsiCo Canada before moving into strategic executive roles at Abitibi Consolidated and Canadian Tire, where he spent 13 years in a range of senior positions prior to being named President and CEO.
Beyond his business accomplishments, Medline is active in the community. He serves as a member of the Board of the SickKids Foundation and is a past Chair of the Retail Council of Canada. He holds an MBA from Raymond A. Mason School of Business, William & Mary; an LL.B. from the University of Toronto, and a BA from Huron University College at Western University.