Ford’s Not In His Future

Devine retires; Menzer moves up at Wal-Mart; and more.

Ford’s Not In His Future

At first, it appeared that John Devine, CFO of Ford Motor Co. since 1994, would survive the new regime of Jacques Nasser, who took over as Ford’s CEO in January. Seven top VPs did not. Ultimately, though, Devine’s fate would be the same. Ford announced his September retirement, a surprise to many. According to some reports, Devine left the Dearborn, Mich., automaker to search for a position at the helm of another company. However, speculation soon surfaced about friction between Nasser and Devine.

The company promptly filled the vacancy with 40-year Ford veteran W. Wayne Booker. As vice chairman, Booker had been supervising the transition to new management. While Devine was considered by many to be a finance guy, Booker brings a solid background in finance and operations to the post. He served in various roles, including EVP of international operations and VP of Asia Pacific operations in Tokyo. Operating experience, he says, enables him to “look at finance from both sides–how we are serving [operations] and how they are being served.”

Booker has a tough act to follow. Devine was a favorite of Wall Street, and Ford has maintained a streak of 12 quarters of record earnings. “The key is concentrating on the customer,” says Booker. “We’ll continue to see consistency, clarity, and credibility in how we deal with outside and inside organizations.”

And what does the future hold for the auto industry? Booker says it will continue to see consolidation. “I can’t tell who’ll be left,” he admits. “But I assure you, we will be one of them.”

———————————————– ——————————— Traveling Salesman
A couple of years ago, we applauded John Menzer’s commitment to top-line growth at Wal- Mart Stores Inc. (see “Birth of a Salesman,” June 1997). Now he’s taking the show on the road. Menzer was named president and CEO of international operations at the giant retailer based in Bentonville, Ark. He succeeds Bob L. Martin, who left on the heels of Wal-Mart’s announcement of plans to buy British supermarket chain Asda Group Plc. A new CFO is expected to be named soon.

Marie Toulantis is joining the growing ranks of CFOs making the leap to online businesses. She took over as CFO of Barnesandnoble.com, the Internet seller of books and music, that went public in May. She was CFO of Barnes & Noble Inc., the Web company’s brick-and-mortar counterpart. Toulantis’s duties at Barnes & Noble will be split between Darrell Meussner, VP and finance chief of the company’s retail and distribution divisions, and Michael Archbold, VP and controller.

Pulp Friction

The CFO of Harnischfeger Industries Inc. was handed his walking papers. Francis M. Corby Jr. left the Milwaukee-based paper-making- and mining-equipment company, along with CEO Jeffery T. Grade, who was also a onetime CFO of Harnischfeger. Former president John Nils Hanson was named CEO, but a new CFO has yet to be chosen. The company, plagued by the Asian financial crisis and slumping commodity prices, has since filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Trinity I Fund LP, the company’s third-largest shareholder, played a role in calling for the restructuring.

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