After three decades, the leadership at the top of the family-held W.C. Bradley Co. changed Tuesday afternoon.
John Turner was elected as the chairman of the board, which controls the broad interests that range from Char-Broil to extensive Columbus real estate holdings, replacing Steve Butler.
Turner is deeply linked to the history of the Columbus-based company that was started a 133 years ago by his great-grandfather W.C. Bradley as a cotton brokerage business and has morphed into a diverse organization with multiple companies operating across the world.
“It is a great blessing that John Turner has agreed to serve as chairman of the board of the W. C. Bradley Co.,” Butler said late Tuesday in a statement from the company announcing the move. “His service to the company and the community over many years has prepared him to lead our board as we address all of the change taking place around us and that we will face in the years ahead.”
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Butler expressed confidence that Turner is up to the task.
“I am confident John will do a wonderful job of leading us through these transitions, and working to preserve the very special relationship between ownership and team members that has been our legacy,” stated Butler.
Turner’s father, Bill Turner, who died last year, was also a former chairman of the board.
John Turner is no stranger to the W.C. Bradley Co., having worked in various roles through the years.
After graduating from Vanderbilt University, Turner spent 20 years with the W.C. Bradley Co. Originally hired as an auditor in 1979, Turner initiated the company’s mail order business which operated until 2007, mailing millions of Grill Lover’s catalogs. He also started Char-Broil’s parts and accessories business.
Turner served as General Manager of Certified Grill Parts and Mail Order; Vice President, Specialized Marketing, Char-Broil; Vice President, Sales and Marketing, The Game; and Senior Vice President, President and COO of Bradley Specialty Retailing.
He left the company in 1999 to pursue full-time entrepreneurial interests and community activism and philanthropy.
A lot of his time was consumed by a dream he had to breach two Chattahoochee River dams coming into downtown Columbus to create a 2.5- mile urban white-water course.
After nearly two decades of working, planning, fund-raising and constriction, the course was complete in 2012 and draws thousands of visitors to Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley each year.
Turner is a director for two local public companies that have their roots in the W.C. Bradley Co. He is on the boards of TSYS, an electronic-payment company, and Synovus, a regional bank, like TSYS headquartered in Columbus.
The W.C. Bradley Co. has a significant reach in its business holdings. It owns Char-Broil, a Columbus company that is one of the nation’s top grill manufactuers; Zebco Brands based in Oklahoma; Lamplight Farms Inc., which makes the Tiki brand of outdoor torches, based in Wisconsin and the real estate division, which operates primarily in Columbus.
Marc Olivié, W.C. Bradley Co. President and CEO and the first non-family member to hold that position, praised Butler.
“Steve Butler leaves behind a legacy of 30 years of strong leadership and vision, guiding the company safely through some challenging times,” Olivié said. “It has been a privilege for me personally to learn from him and work with him.”
Turner will continue that leadership, Olivié said.
“With John Turner as our new chairman, I know we will continue to have strong leadership and a continued focus on the values that have made it possible for this Company to thrive for 133 years,” Olivié said. “This continuity of family leadership will insure that the best years are still to come.”