CFOs Back in the Hood

For finance chiefs, returning to an old job is not necessarily a bad thing.

It’s a rerun at InFocus Corp.: CFO Michael Yonker has rejoined the company after three years as CFO of Wieden + Kennedy, a privately held advertising agency.

Yonker left InFocus, he says, to spend more time with his children, who were then of high school age. Now he’s heading back for a shot at succeeding current CEO John Harker, 69, who is planning to retire within the next several years. “It’s something I’ll have to earn, of course,” says Yonker, but he expects the experience he gained in the advertising industry to be an advantage as the digital-projector maker launches consumer lines.

At least five other finance chiefs–Doretha Christoph of Intermet, Edward Jacobs of SuperGen, John Kalec of Clayton Homes, Maureen Mullarkey of International Game Technology, and Hoshi Printer of Autobytel.com– circled back to previous employers last year. It’s hard to call it a trend: catalysts for such returns range from failed dot-coms to homesickness. But familiarity hasn’t bred contempt. “I like to feel as though I can contribute right away, and there was more of a chance for that here,” says Christoph, whose CEO surprised her with the job offer when she called him a year after she left to ask for a reference.

Wall Street likes the comfort of same-old, same-old when it comes to CFOs. The share prices of Autobytel.com, Clayton Homes, and SuperGen have risen since their CFOs returned. If a finance chief left on good terms, a return is a good thing, say analysts. “Having someone come in who knows the company and the market is reassuring,” says InFocus analyst Jim Ricchiuti of Needham & Co.

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