This year nearly
CFOs are expected to
leave their current jobs. Most will move on to other finance positions,
often at larger companies. A few (think Indra Nooyi at
PepsiCo) will move into the coveted corner office. But a growing number of CFOs
will wave an emphatic goodbye to corporate life altogether and instead launch
themselves into a wide variety of other pursuits. While the CFO post is undeniably
a pressure-cooker, it can also be an incubator: executives acquire a broad range
of skills, experiences, and contacts that leave them well prepared to indulge their
passions and interests. They can strike out in new directions even as they leverage
the finance savvy they’ve spent many years developing. Some will become independent
directors, others will explore opportunities in the private-equity/venture-capital space, still others will take the “left to pursue other interests” boilerplate to heart — and actually pursue the dreams they feel they’ve put off for far too long.
The reasons for the exodus are multifold: increased regulation, corporate
politics, a desire to more fully embrace the spirit of casual Friday. The destinations
are also diverse. After all, CFO pay being what it is (see “Pay Up“), many finance chiefs can walk away from the job and live quite comfortably,
thank you. They can often come back whenever they want — or need — to. Ken Yamamoto, for example, left the CFO post at Gartner to run a cleaning
enterprise in Georgia; he has since returned as treasurer of Affinion Group.
Longtime CFO Ellen Richstone ran a specialty consulting business leveraging
C-suite executives, but was enticed back to the CFO post at Sonus Networks
after two years.
On the following pages, you’ll meet 11 former CFOs who have closed the door on finance — at least for now. What’s
true for all is that their finance careers have given them a foundation for their new endeavors, whether it’s running restaurants,
teaching the next generation of finance executives, helping to manage a renowned charitable organization, or writing
the Great American Novel. Most of these CFOs recall their business careers fondly, but seem decidedly more excited
to talk about their current pursuits. Not that they regret their former jobs. As one career-changer notes, “When you’re
a CFO, you can pretty much do anything.”
Become a Restaurateur
To those who know her, Susan Frasca has simply fulfilled
her childhood dream. Even as a nine-year-old, she whipped up
crepes and Baked Alaska in her family’s kitchen. “My mom used to
think I would be a cook when I grew up,” she remembers.
Instead she became an accountant, capping her career in
finance with the CFO post at Restaurants-America, which owns 45
upscale restaurants nationwide.
Then, nine years ago, she traded in her calculator for a chef’s
knife. Frasca secured a 100 percent-funded nonrecourse loan and
took over four of the group’s restaurants. “When you’re a CFO, you
can pretty much do anything,” she says. “A business is a business
regardless of industry.”