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25 to Watch in 2012

Posted: Dec. 28, 2011, 11:30 a.m. EST

25 to Watch in 2011

Here’s our annual list of people to watch—for better or worse—in the coming year.

Bob Angstead: Flush with a "strategic investment” from Winona Capital Management and existing investors, the Petsense president and CEO is looking forward to "rapidly entering and expanding into many more pet-loving markets throughout the country.” The investment will allow the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based chain to add more than 100 stores, which would more than triple its store count from September 2011. Angstead previously served as senior vice president with Petsmart from 1989 to 1998, during which time that chain grew from 7 stores to more than 500.

Larry Baab: Larry Baab joined Petmate as executive vice president of marketing and new product development. Baab, who brings 20-plus years of marketing, sales and product development experience to the table, said he has two main priorities in his new role. The first is defining Petmate’s brands and ensuring consistency in how they are represented. The second is helping to increase sales, whether through new product innovation or acquisitions.

Michael Baker: Michael Baker, owner of Cumberland, R.I.-based distributor Pet Food Experts, is branching out in the Mid-Atlantic market with the opening of a 108,000-square-foot facility in Lancaster, Pa. In addition to New England and parts of New York and New Jersey, Pet Food Experts has expanded its territory to include independent pet specialty retailers in Delaware, Maryland, southern New Jersey, western New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Randy Boyd: With the 2010 acquisition of Premier Pet Products, the founder and CEO of Radio Systems Corp. envisioned gaining traction for the Petsafe brand with animal behaviorists, trainers and veterinarians. Boyd now faces performing a balancing act—expanding into new markets domestically (therapeutic lasers, lickable dog treats, etc.) and internationally (PetSafe now has offices or distributor partners in at least 53 countries) while dealing with strongly held perceptions about electronic training products.

Chet Bryant: As sales director for Renaissance Aquatics, based in Inglewood, Calif., Bryant sparked a lot of interest at the H.H. Backer trade show in October as Renaissance started offering tank-raised flame angelfish to the industry through an exclusive deal with an unidentified Asian source. Moreover, the two companies expect to bring another tank-raised Angel species to market by early 2012. If they are able to provide a steady, sustainable supply of healthy specimens to market, Bryant is poised to stoke growth for the aquatics hobby.

Shawn Dooley: As he enters his 20th year with Absorption Corp., Dooley has a new position (director of business development), new boss (Ted Mischaikov), new owner (private equity group Kinderhook Industries) and new mission: lead Absorption’s search for potential acquisitions and strategic partnerships.

Dara Foster: The pet fashion stylist and TV personality signed a licensing agreement with European Home Designs to create a line of affordably priced dog fashions, accessories and bedding that will launch in spring 2012.

Alfred Glander: With the new year, he becomes a managing director at Krefeld, Germany-based Fressnapf, Europe’s largest pet specialty retailer at nearly 1,200 stores from Ireland to Hungary, from Denmark to Italy. Glander will oversee international purchasing, private label, category management and e-commerce amid Europe’s economic chaos.

Jim Glassford: As vice president of marketing for AgriLabs and a pet industry veteran, he will play a major role in the sales and marketing firm’s ProLabs unit, along with strategic business unit manager Brian Reardon. The ProLabs unit plans to bring vaccines and other proven health care products for pets typically available only through veterinarians to the over-the-counter market. Glassford says the company has entered several exclusive agreements with manufacturers so the ProLabs pipeline should be full following its fall launches of tapeworm treatments and joint health supplements.

Three Stooges
Moe Howard (center). Courtesy of C3 Entertainment.

Moe Howard: The Three Stooges may seem an interesting licensing target for a pet products company, but Multipet International is set to debut a line of Three Stooges plush dog toys (complete with Three Stooges catch-phrase voice boxes) at this year’s Global Pet Expo, ahead of a new The Three Stooges movie hitting theaters in April. Moe (played in the film by Chris Diamantopoulos) is the top dog of the trio and with the Farrelly Brothers (Something About Mary, Dumb and Dumber) directing, the movie should have box office success and broader appeal than to the middle-aged and older men who still enjoy classic Stooges. 

Ruth Jeffers: With deep roots in the pet industry (she started working for her dad at age 11), Jeffers was elected chairperson of the World Pet Association in September. So now in addition to her current positions as vice president of sales and marketing at and a board member of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, she also gets to guide the momentum of WPA and its activities, most notably SuperZoo and America’s Family Pet Expos.

Wayde King: Along with brother-in-law Brett Raymer, King operates Acrylic Tank Manufacturing, a Las Vegas-based custom tank building company featured in Animal Planet’s "Tanked” reality TV series. Capitalizing on the popularity of the show, King and Raymer have introduced an aquarium products line and it is a safe bet that even their competitors might be rooting for the continued success of the show and the positive attention it brings to the hobby.

Kostas Kontopanos: The new president of Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc.’s U.S. operations, Kontopanos will also serve as vice president of the Kansas City Animal Health Corridor in 2012 and president of the group in 2013. The group actively recruits other animal health businesses to set up facilities in the Kansas City area, and the executive roles will be a opportunity for him to network with other executives and continue to build Hill’s reputation within the veterinary profession at a time that organized veterinary medicine is aggressively attempting to re-establish the veterinarian as the expert source for nutrition advice and that crucial initial recommendation.

Michael Levy: President of Pet Food Express, an Oakland, Calif.-based pet specialty chain with 40-plus stores in Northern California, has also jumped into the manufacturing game with Glenn Novotny, formerly of Central Garden & Pet Co., with the launch of Emerald Pet Products. The idea is to take private label products proven at Pet Food Express stores to a national audience. But Levy is also interested in continuing to expand Pet Food Express, and possibly outside of its Northern California base. That expansion may be helped by a court order for Royal Canin USA to pay $3.8 million to the chain for a breach of contract case from 2009 in which Royal Canin was found to have withheld a $309,000 market development payment from the chain.

Susana Della Maddalena: As vice president and executive director of Petsmart Charities, Petsmart Inc.’s philanthropic arm, she is driving expansion of the chain’s "enhanced adoption centers,” in which Petsmart Charities partners with animal control agencies or humane shelters to house adoptable animals within Petsmarts, thereby facilitating more adoptions (and new pet product sales for the store) and freeing up shelter space for other animals. Under the program, Petsmart provides the space and enclosures and the partner shelter provides staffing and the animals.

Angela Merkel: As chancellor of Germany, the European Union’s strongest economy, Merkel has become known as, among other things, the Queen of Europe. The world’s economies are now looking for her to save the Euro and the European Union as they face a string of sovereign debt crises. As she faces re-election in 2013, she will toe a difficult line of urging fiscal responsibility from other countries while protecting German’s credit. The Euro’s relative strength will greatly affect this year’s Interzoo and related business strategies and goals.

Lucy Postins: If you’re going to include "honest” in your company name, you better plan on operating in a highly principled fashion. The Honest Kitchen founder and CEO seems to do just that, whether by earning the respect of other pet food manufacturers for adhering to high quality standards or by placing personal values above sales (The Honest Kitchen does not sell its food to pet stores that sell puppies due to its opposition to puppy farms). Now flush with an investment (after a three-year search for the right fit) from two "socially conscious” private equity firms, Postins expects to significantly bolsters its sales and marketing efforts while facing the pressures of maintaining those principles in the face of accelerated growth.

Marcus Richmond: The former U.S. Marine officer and current owner of American Pet Registry Inc. in Harvey, Ark., is running for the Republican nomination for a U.S. Congress seat. He’ll be looking for pet industry support as he runs as an anti-debt Washington outsider, and will likely draw animal rights groups’ fire if he wins the nomination. "We have to send someone to Washington who doesn’t have to be educated about the pet industry or the animal activists and their true agenda,” he told breeders in a fund-raising appeal in December. 

John Roberts: With the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care reform, particularly the individual mandate to buy health insurance, to be decided sometime in 2012, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is in a position to determine the state of health care—and health care payments--in the United States for years to come. Another business issue likely to come before the Roberts court: tax on Internet sales.

Alan Ronay: Apparently not satisfied with owning a successful retail store in St. Pete Beach, Fla. (Best Buddies Dog Boutique & Bakery, a Pet Product News International 2011-2012 Retailer of the Year special recognition winner), Ronay is now also the proprietor of Tastybone, a new treat manufacturing company. In addition, he is exploring the possibilities of franchising Best Buddies nationally.

Mike Schlegel: Late in 2011, Dogtopia unveiled four new franchise agreements—its first franchising activity in two years. During the hiatus, the company focused on improving store operations (Dogtopias offer daycare, boarding, spa services and boutique retail), rode out a difficult credit environment, and bringing franchise development in-house under vice president Schlegel, who formerly handled site development. Schlegel may also have a hand in helping Dogtopia founder and CEO Amy Nichols bring a new product for both service providers and dog owners to market in 2012.

Mark Teixeira
Mark Teixeira

Mark Teixeira: Mark Teixeira is serving in the newly created position of president at Bell Rock Growers, the makers of Pet Greens brand nutrition products. Teixeira will draw on his professional experiences at Petco, Nestle Purina and Furminator to oversee the strategic development of the company and its overall growth.

Audrey Urda: The former Petsmart associate filed suit against the Phoenix-based retailer in October alleging sexual harassment at the hands of two different Petsmart managers at Petsmart locations in New York and Virginia. She also claims retaliation, wrongful termination and negligent hiring against Petsmart, which allegedly hired one of the managers despite allegations of sexual harassment against him at a specialty electronics retailer. A pre-trial hearing is set for mid-January as Petsmart tries to get the case dismissed. Urda’s law firm, however, has a reputation for going up against large companies—and seeking publicity in doing so.

Bob Vetere
Bob Vetere

Bob Vetere: Although an American Pet Products Association president bears watching in any year, 2012 could be a particularly high profile year for Vetere. For one, the Human Animal Bond Research Institute, over which he also presides, is going to emerge from its developmental phase to actually producing tangible benefits, notably the HABRI Central online library launching early in 2012 under the auspices of Purdue University and Dr. Alan Beck. If you can’t find Vetere promoting pet products and the human-animal bond, check a local bookstore. His book on management and life skills—From Wags to Riches: How Dogs Teach Us To Succeed in Business and Life—came out at the end of 2011.

Brent Weinmann: As new president of the Pet Care Trust, Weinmann, president and CEO of Vitakraft Sunseed, will be replacing Lew Sutton, the first new president of the group in 9 years. Weinmann plans to continue Sutton’s path and promote the foundation’s Pets In the Classroom program. He will also be busy leading U.S. celebrations, including a year-long sweepstakes offering a trip for two to Germany and 175 other prizes, of parent company Vitakraft’s 175th anniversary (and SunSeed’s 30th).



See the 25 To Watch list for 2011

See the 25 To Watch list for 2010

See the 25 To Watch list for 2009


EDITORS' NOTE: This article was updated on Jan. 3, 2012, to address inaccurate information in the Randy Boyd listing. The editors regret the error.



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