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March 26, 2024

Longtime CEO of Imperial Distributors to step down, be succeeded by president

Two men in blue suits and a woman in a black suit sit in front of the Imperial Distributors logo. Photo | Courtesy of Imperial Distributors After Michael Sleeper (left) transitions from CEO to executive chairman, he will be succeeded as CEO by President Joe Kirby (right) and Naomi Sleeper (center), who will become president and chief growth officer.

Michael Sleeper, who has led Worcester-based Imperial Distributors for six decades, on Monday will transition to the role of executive chairman of the board.

Sleeper will be succeeded in the CEO role by longtime President Joe Kirby while his daughter, Naomi Sleeper, will move into the position of president and chief growth officer of the 700-employee company, according to a press release issued by Imperial on Monday.

“As we embark on this new chapter in Imperial’s history, I am confident that Joe and Naomi, working in tandem, will continue to grow our company with vision and purpose," Michael Sleeper said in the press release. “I am excited for the journey ahead under their leadership.”

Michael Sleeper joined the company in 1964 and took over as CEO in 1970, according to the release. Among the many achievements during his tenure was the opening in 2017 of a new $29-million, 325,000-square-foot distribution facility off of Route 146 in Worcester.

Kirby joined the company in 2003 and was named second in command in 2019. Naomi Sleeper in the third-generation family member to take on an executive role at Imperial Distributors, having joined the company in 2013 and was most recently its executive vice president.

Imperial Distributors markets and distributes non-food supermarket goods for companies such as Big Y World Class Market, Market Basket, and Stop & Shop, according to its website. Imperial was  founded in 1939 by door-to-door first-aid kit salesman Frank Sleeper, Michael’s father. By 1940, the company had opened its first warehouse on Winter Street in Worcester.

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