By Geert De Lombaerde

Tractor Supply’s CEO succession plan has been thrown off track after the sudden departure of President and COO Steve Barbarick, effective today.

Brentwood-based Tractor Supply announced Barbarick’s resignation in a short statement that provided no reasons for the move. Barbarick had been with the farm and ranch products retailer for more than two decades and last year added the COO role to his responsibilities. That established him as the anointed successor to CEO Greg Sandfort, who has been in the spot since late 2012 and was president and COO before taking over from Jim Wright.

“In his two decades with Tractor Supply, Steve has made numerous valuable contributions to the growth and success of the company,” Sandfort said in the statement, which also noted that he has extended his contract with the company through the end of next year. “On behalf of the entire Tractor Supply team, we thank him and wish Steve and his family the very best in the future.”

Tractor Supply directors on Friday said they have hired executive search firm Egon Zehnder to help them identify Barbarick’s successor.

“Given Greg’s track record of success, it is clear that the company and our shareholders will be best served by his continued leadership as the board conducts the process of identifying a successor,” board Chairman Cynthia Jamison said.

Shares of Tractor Supply (Ticker: TSCO) closed Thursday at $101.45. They have risen about 7 percent over the past six

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