The Tories were supposed to elect a new leader July 5 and with only Frank Coleman left in the race, the path was clear for the 60-year-old businessman from Corner Brook to become premier.
Coleman announced he was leaving politics on Monday to deal with an unspecified family matter.
Interim Premier Tom Marshall isn't interested in seeking the leadership, but former cabinet minister John Ottenheimer became the first candidate to publicly declare his intention to run on radio station VOCM.
Nominations for leader open on Monday and close July 7 for the leadership vote to be held in St. John's.
Delegates will be chosen over a one-month period ending on Aug. 14.
The party has been in power since 2003 and began the search for a new leader in January when Kathy Dunderdale quit politics amid complaints about her leadership style and poor performances in public opinion polls.
Coleman has a strong track record as head of the Coleman Group of Companies, which includes food, clothing and furniture retail businesses. He was named Atlantic Canada's CEO of the year by Atlantic Business Magazine in 2010.
He became the sole leadership candidate in April when fisheries magnate Bill Barry quit the race, suggesting it was stacked against him. The only other challenger, retired naval officer Wayne Bennett, was expelled for breaching party principles.
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