Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Liquor, lottery boss seeks new HQ

Outgoing CEO of merged Crown says downtown is target area

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WANTED: downtown office space for up to 400 people who help run the province's gambling and booze business.

That's one of the jobs the outgoing head of the merged Manitoba Lotteries and the Manitoba Liquor Control Commission is assigned as he prepares for the next chapter of his career.

Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries (MBLL) president and CEO Winston Hodgins told staff Friday he'll let go of the reins of the daily operations of the former Lotteries and Liquor Control Commission by the end of the year and instead focus on finalizing the merger of the two Crowns. A national search for someone to replace Hodgins will begin shortly.

Hodgins said in an interview his work will also include specific projects to grow the business of both sides of the new Crown corporation, which in 2012-13 contributed a combined $558 million to the government purse.

'This is a very significant corporation and I'm not sure people appreciate its size. We have a revenue stream of $1.5 billion a year and 3,000 employees'

-- Winston Hodgins, president and CEO of Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries

Top of the list things to do is finding a new head office for MBLL. The majority of Lotteries administrative employees are still working in the former Crown's four locations and the former MLCC office at Buffalo Place in Fort Garry also still serves as office space. It's also the main distribution centre for liquor outlets around the province.

"We will be going to the downtown area," Hodgins said. "We're going to look at whatever options that might be out there that from a businesses perspective make the most sense for us."

The merged Crown has long been rumoured to be eyeing the downtown Bay department store at Memorial Boulevard and Portage Avenue that currently only operates on three floors of the six-storey building, built in the mid-1920s.

Hodgins said MLL has no wish list of where it wants to set up shop. An expression of interest will go out in the next month followed by a request for proposals. MBLL is looking for a location to accommodate up to 400 staff.

He said the plan calls for MBLL to dispose of its Empress Avenue headquarters, but keep the Buffalo Place location because it serves as the distribution centre for what ends up on the shelves of liquor stores across the province.

MBLL chairwoman Tannis Mindell said officials have no concerns Hodgins will be painted with the same brush as former Manitoba Public Insurance chief executive officer Marilyn McLaren. McLaren retired Feb. 21, but was hired by MPI as a consultant for the auto insurer's upcoming rate application before the Public Utilities Board. The Opposition Progressive Conservatives criticized the Selinger government over McLaren's hiring during the recent legislative sitting.

"Governance best practices suggest that you should do a proper succession plan in proper transition period," Mindell said. "With this much notice, we're able to structure this in a proper way so that the corporation is held in good stead."

Hodgins was appointed interim president of Manitoba Lotteries in May 2000. He was former a deputy minister in the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs.

"I've been in positions where there have been fairly significant demands," Hodgins said. "I'm still ready to continue to make some contribution.

"This is a very significant corporation and I'm not sure people appreciate its size. We have a revenue stream of $1.5 billion a year and 3,000 employees. The combined corporation is the ninth-largest corporation in Manitoba.

"Whoever comes in as the CEO will require some transition and hopefully my being here will be able to assist whoever is the successful candidate and make that transition easier."

Hodgins, who would not divulge his age, said he would only retire once he was sure there was nothing else he could contribute.

The NDP announced the merger of the liquor and lotteries Crowns two years ago as a way to save taxpayers money. MBLL is on pace to save $6.1 million in those first two years.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 14, 2014 B6

History

Updated on Saturday, June 14, 2014 at 9:59 AM CDT: Corrected MBLL abbreviation

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