Editor's note: The name of AutoNation’s Shared Service Center was incorrect in a previous version of this report. It has been corrected.
AutoNation Inc. is searching for a new chief accounting officer after removing Michael Stephan from the post this week.
In a regulatory filing late Thursday, AutoNation said it notified Stephan “that he will no longer serve as vice president-corporate controller and tax and as principal accounting officer of the company effective March 9, 2015.”
The change is connected to “an internal realignment of its finance department,” AutoNation said in the filing.
Stephan will continue as an AutoNation employee on a transitional basis until June 2, the company said.
AutoNation said it has retained executive search firm Heidrick & Struggles to find a new chief accounting officer with broader responsibilities. AutoNation CFO Cheryl Scully will be the company’s principal accounting officer until a new person is hired.
AutoNation spokesman Marc Cannon said there were no conduct or performance issues with Stephan, but the company is changing that job and the new role doesn’t suit Stephan’s expertise. Cannon described the revised job only as a broader role encompassing other areas of finance.
Stephan, who had held the post since 2007, has “done an outstanding job and he’s highly regarded,” Cannon said. “The position is just changing, and the expertise is going to have to be different than what he possesses.”
In an interview with Automotive News, Stephan said he had nothing but good things to say about AutoNation, the nation's largest automotive retailer with 2014 new-car sales of 318,008 vehicles.
“It was a great eight years with the company,” said Stephan. “I’m really proud of all the work we did on the accounting side.”
He said AutoNation’s move to broaden the chief accounting officer role makes sense. He described his background as on the financial reporting and technical side. The expanded role will fold in oversight of AutoNation’s Shared Service Center, its central accounting office in Dallas.
“I understand the need to do things more efficiently,” Stephan said.
Stephan said he would be available “as the company needs me” through June 2, but plans to enjoy some travel to Greece and Turkey this spring. Regarding his next steps, he said, “Everything is a possibility right now.”