The move, which surprised industry analysts, follows three years of record sales and profits for R-M across Europe.
Mr Hobday will from January head a team of 420 at BASF's Direct Sales Division. The £99m turnover business deals with direct sales of paint, equipment and consumables across 12 European countries, though not in the UK which has an independent distribution network.
It includes the AMU distribution company, which has boosted efficiency through its call centre and e-commerce capability – a facility championed by Mr Hobday.
His replacement will be announced in January. He is expected to give management in each country a free reign in order to continue R-M's growth in Europe.