ELYRIA — Invacare Corp. has started a search for new leadership with the announcement that President and Chief Executive Officer Gerald Blouch will retire, effective Thursday.
The international provider of home and long-care medical products announced in a news release Thursday that Blouch will leave the role he assumed in January 2011.
He also will retire from his position on the Board of Directors.
“My decision to retire was a difficult one, but it is the right choice for me and for the company,” Blouch said in a statement. “I am confident that, despite its short-term challenges, Invacare has an incredibly strong future. Its fundamental business is driven by the continued movement of consumers from acute care facilities into the home care setting.”
Blouch has been at the helm during an especially troubling time for Invacare.
In December 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Invacare entered into a consent decree, which restricted operations at the company’s corporate facility and its plant on Taylor Street. Under the agreement, Invacare agreed to undergo three third-party audits to be submitted to the FDA. That process is continuing.
Robert K. Gudbranson, Invacare’s senior vice president and chief financial officer, will serve as interim president and CEO.
The Invacare Board of Directors will retain an executive recruiting firm to assist in the national search for a new CEO. The search will include both internal and external candidates.
Gudbranson will usher the company through the final audit. He will retain his role as CFO.
“I have full confidence in Rob Gundbranson and the senior leadership team to drive the necessary business improvements to complete the third-party certification audit, as well as turn around the core business,” Blouch said.
During a conference call Thursday with investors, Blouch talked about the ongoing work to comply with the consent decree.
“We are continuing through the final certification audit process,” he said. “We need to better demonstrate that our quality system is sustainably compliant and that each subsystem is properly integrated. In order to address these needs, we have engaged additional consultants to help us improve the functionality and capabilities of certain of our quality subsystems.
“This is a detailed and complex process, and we are working hard to be in a position to ultimately demonstrate compliance to the third-party auditor and subsequently the FDA.”
Blouch joined Invacare in 1990 as the chief financial officer, and in 1994 he became the chief operating officer. He was named president in 1996, and he assumed the role of CEO in January 2011, less than a year after longtime CEO A. Malachi Mixon III suffered a mild stroke and stepped down from the company’s helm.
“We are grateful to Gerry for his contributions to Invacare over the past 24 years,” said Mixon, who serves as chairman of Invacare’s Board of Directors, in a statement. “He was an integral part of building Invacare into the $1.4 billion world leader of home and long-term care medical devices. The board will be actively searching for a successor who can take the company to the next level. In the interim, the board has full confidence in Rob Gudbranson, who has distinguished himself as chief financial officer.’’