The finance department has produced many memorable names over the past 20 years, and before the current rogues’ gallery of Fastow, Sullivan, and Swartz ruled headlines, CFOs made news for their deal-making and turnaround skills. Where are these notable finance execs today?
Perhaps no name is better known in finance over the past two decades than that of Dennis Dammerman, General Electric’s former CFO and current vice chairman. He also serves as chairman of GE Capital Services and sits on the board of Genworth Financial. Along with the acclaim, Dammerman has had his share of criticism, too — for GE’s earnings management practices. He dismissed those charges in a 1995 interview with CFO: “We’re proud of the fact that we have had relatively consistent earnings growth…. Did we do anything wrong to achieve that? Absolutely not.”
Joseph Graziano, Apple Computer’s finance czar from 1989 to 1995, looks back on his struggle with Apple’s board — detailed in a 1996 CFO cover story — and laughs. “Ten years ago I tried to raise some issues with the board, and nobody wanted to listen. Today if a CFO came to a board and started to bring things up, the board would be worried about the legal ramifications of not listening.” Graziano now chairs the audit committee at both film animator Pixar and Packeteer, a maker of Internet traffic management hardware and software. And though he’s left California for Montana, he still drives race cars in his free time.
After helping to integrate Compaq Computer with Hewlett-Packard following their 2002 megamerger, former Compaq CFO Jeff Clarke left HP in early 2004. Now he, too, is involved in a turnaround. He took the COO job at Computer Associates, and is one of a cadre of new executives aiming to restore the software company’s reputation. Clarke says technology and globalization have had the greatest impact on the CFO role. “The CFO 20 years ago had a series of static reports. Now there are these incredible operating dashboards that give visibility into the business,” he says. “That technology has allowed the CFO to transform into a more operational executive with a bigger impact on the business. This is why you see more CFOs becoming COOs and CEOs.”
Best known for his role in the turnarounds at IBM and Chrysler, Jerome York is working on another challenge, this time as chair of the audit committee at Tyco. The fact that York took on the messy job shouldn’t come as a surprise. After all, he told CFO in 1993, “When things are going well, it gets a little boring.” York also serves as a director at Apple and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He has run Harwinton Capital Corp., his private investment firm, since September 2003.
Tom Meredith, Dell Computer’s former finance chief, has devoted himself to philanthropy since leaving the computer maker in 2000. A cover subject in August 1993, he runs the Meredith Private Foundation and co-founded the Austin Idea Network, a nonprofit focusing on quality of life in central Texas. Recently, Meredith joined the board of Motorola.
Debby Hopkins has been one of the most mobile executives of the past 20 years, taking her hard-charging management style from Unisys to General Motors to Boeing, a move for which she was featured on a CFO cover in 1999. Her time at Boeing was brief, however; she left after a year and a half to take the financial reins at Lucent Technologies. She was there barely a year, during which time profits plunged, CEO Richard McGinn was sacked, and the SEC began an investigation into past accounting practices. She then moved to consultancy Marakon Associates before joining Citigroup in January 2003, where she is now COO and CTO.
B.J. Rone, featured on CFO’s February 1991 cover for his turnaround work at Archive Corp., is now the CFO at Alliance Systems Holdings Inc., a server distributor in Plano, Tex. He says the top finance role has changed dramatically over the past two decades. “If you divide the CFO’s job into two pieces, where one is the financial-reporting and accounting side and the other is maximizing shareholder value and running the business, it used to be that you spent 80 percent of your time on the first part. Now it’s more like 50-50.”
Former Sara Lee Corp. CFO Judith Sprieser tried her hand at entrepreneurship in 2000, helping to found an online consumer-products marketplace, Transora. Sprieser was one of many CFOs to leave an established company for a start-up in recent years. Heidi Miller left Citigroup for a nine-month stint at Priceline before returning to the Old Economy, joining Marsh & McLennan and later becoming head of treasury services at J.P. Morgan Chase. Former Walt Disney Co. CFO Richard Nanula also tested the start-up waters, taking the CEO job at Broadband Sports after his tenure as president of Starwood Hotels & Resorts ended with a falling-out with CEO Barry Sternlicht. Nanula also returned to a large, publicly traded company after the bubble burst: today he’s the CFO of Amgen.