Cat Calls

A new finance chief at Caterpillar Inc.; and more.

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Cat Calls

Dig this. Douglas R. Oberhelman was promoted from CFO to VP of engine products at Caterpillar Inc. F. Lynn McPheeters, who was previously treasurer at the Peoria heavy- equipment manufacturer, takes over as CFO. Oberhelman succeeds Gerald L. Shaheen, who was promoted to group president in charge of machinery.

James A. Lawrence bid cheerio to Northwest Airlines, where he was CFO, to take the same post at General Mills Inc. He is the first CFO at the Minneapolis-based cereal and snack-food company since 1996. Various managers have fulfilled the CFO duties since then. Northwest, based in St. Paul, Minn., has yet to name a replacement.

Globe Trotters

Loral Space & Communications Ltd. will uplink with Richard J. Townsend. The New York satellite concern named him SVP and CFO, succeeding Michael P. DeBlasio, who will focus on strategic planning. Before joining Loral, Townsend was controller and director of strategy at ITT Industries Inc.

The Hard Rock Cafe International Inc.’s next big star is Scott Little. He was named CFO of the Orlando-based restaurant chain. Little is a former senior finance executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, and succeeds Greg Leonard, who left to pursue other interests.

Molson Cos. CFO Stuart L. Hartley is leaving to enjoy his golden years. The Toronto brewing concern says Hartley will retire at the end of the year after 20 years with the company. A search is under way to find a successor.

The Caddy

Stephen S. Winslett is improving his game. He was promoted from CFO to COO at Golden Bear Golf Inc., the N. Palm Beach, Fla., company founded by golf great Jack Nicklaus. Winslett assumes the duties previously held by Richard P. Bellinger, who resigned as CEO. Golden Bear recently restated results for 1997 and the first quarter of 1998 to show greater losses.

Olivia Kirtley was elected to chair the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Her goals for the institute include taking an active role in setting international accounting standards and achieving more diversification in the accounting profession. Formerly, Kirtley was CFO of Vermont American Corp.

CFO 2000

John J. Todd is getting used to bovine boxes. That’s because he was recently named CFO of Gateway Inc., the N. Sioux City, S. Dak., PC maker known for its cow-pattern shipping boxes. The former CFO of AlliedSignal Engines, a Phoenix-based unit of AlliedSignal Inc., succeeds David McKittrick, who announced his retirement earlier this year.

In pickle news, William R. Lewis stepped down as CFO of Vlasic Foods International Inc., based in Cherry Hill, N.J., after helping the food company with its spin-off from Campbell Soup Co. He was replaced by Mitchell P. Goldstein, former VP of strategic planning and corporate development at Vlasic.

Big Bank Mergers Falter

Only months into the high-profile mergers that created Citigroup Inc. and BankAmerica Corp., there is already friction among the combined managements. At BankAmerica, president David Coulter, former chairman of the old BankAmerica, which kept its name when it merged with NationsBank, resigned after the bank disclosed losses stemming from a $1.4 billion loan to New York investment firm D.E. Shaw & Co. A week later, Jamie Dimon, president of Citigroup, formed from Citibank and Travelers, stepped down amid a clash of personalities.

“It’s tough to merge two big banks that have different cultures and different views about the direction the new bank should take without having the problems we are starting to see now at Citigroup and BankAmerica,” says Brian Eisenbarth, a portfolio analyst at Collins & Co. He says that, typically, there needs to be one person in charge.

So far, however, the CFOs at both banks have been able to stay above the fray, and may even emerge in better shape after the fallout.

At BankAmerica, for example, vice chairman and CFO James Hance is now being mentioned as a possible successor to chairman and CEO Hugh L. McColl Jr. (McColl, 63, recently decided to stay on until 2002.) What is unclear, though, is Hance’s role in the losses at D.E. Shaw. A shareholder lawsuit filed by the San Francisco law firm Gold Bennett & Cera LLP alleges that Hance knew about the losses in August, but took no action, and even goes so far as to allege that Hance and McColl intentionally used the matter to wedge Coulter from the company. Some investors on Wall Street are also angry about the delay in disclosing the losses. “I don’t think they handled it very well,” says Eisenbarth.

At Citigroup, Dimon’s departure has opened the door for a greater role for Victor Menezes, former CFO of Citibank. He was named co-head of the global investment and corporate bank. No word yet on how the shake-up will affect Heidi Miller, CFO of Citigroup, who had close ties to Dimon.

Former CFO Faces Prison

One lesson from Monica-gate: Watch what you say under oath. That lesson came too late for the former CFO of Empire Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New York, who was found guilty of committing perjury before a Senate subcommittee. Jerry Weissman was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison in late September following his 1997 conviction on two charges of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice after he provided false documents to a U.S. Senate subcommittee and then lied in his testimony.

The trouble began when Weissman, who was dismissed from Empire in 1993, reported financial information to New York State insurance regulators that did not jibe with Empire’s own internal records. Prosecutors say Weissman reported better results for a segment of Empire’s business for which it set its own rates, and worse results for the part regulated by the state than were contained in Empire’s internal records. When a Senate subcommittee subpoenaed underwriting results from Empire, Weissman produced false reports and lied in his testimony.

Weissman’s attorney, Walter P. Loughlin, says his client adjusted the numbers because he believed his staff’s loss allocations were wrong, and Loughlin claims Weissman’s own projections ultimately proved accurate. Weissman remains free on bail while appealing his conviction and sentence.

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