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Grapevine

GM's Michael Losh hits the road; Perot Systems's CFO resigns; and more.

1Oct


Coincidence? Probably.
Some might see more than coincidence in the resignation of Perot Systems Corp.'s CFO Terry M. Ashwill, 55, just one week before heir-apparent Ross Perot Jr. took over the CEO seat from his father, Ross Sr., at the Dallas-based IT services firm. Replacing Ashwill is Russell Freeman, 36, who was previously corporate controller and has been with the Perot Systems finance team since 1989, according to company press releases.


But watchers think the change had less to do with the changing of the guard than with the company's rocky financial ride since it went public in February 1999. The company's stock topped out at 66 shortly after the IPO, driven by then-rampant Internet fever. Since then, the stock has dropped, flirting with 10 in August. In addition, the company announced a second-quarter profit drop of 22 percent, due largely to the loss of one major outsourcing contract and lower revenues from another.


"Terry did a wonderful job of tightening the purse strings," says Dirk Godsey, senior analyst at Chase H&Q in San Francisco, "and moving the company from where it was spending readily to where it was more tightly controlled. The new regime is focused on growth and profitability and being more Street-centric."


In fact, one of Freeman's first tasks was organizing a road show. Freeman declined to comment.


"Overall, I don't get the sense that the CEO switch was the main factor in Terry's decision to leave," says Michael Hutchison, an analyst with Barrington Research, an investment research firm in Chicago.



A Four-Leaf Clover

Robert Shapard, 44, could be Ultramar Diamond Shamrock Corp.'s lucky charm. The former CEO of Australian operations at TXU Co. has been named EVP and CFO of the San Antonio­based oil refinery. He replaces H. Pete Smith, who has retired.


It's a whole new world for John "Jack" Hammerski, 49, the newly appointed CFO of Access Worldwide Communications Inc. Hammerski was promoted from SVP, financial planning and analysis, to finance chief of the Boca Raton, Fla.-based marketing services firm.



Kerri B. Anderson, 43, is in hamburger heaven! Anderson filled the CFO spot (which has been vacant since the April retirement of Frederick R. Reed) at Dublin, Ohio- based Wendy's International Inc. She joins the hamburger chain from M/I Schottenstein Homes Inc., where she is still a director.



Sharing Air Space


Stan Gadek, previously acting CFO at Atlas Air Inc., has made a permanent landing as SVP of finance and CFO at the AirTran Airways unit of AirTran Holdings Inc. The 48- year-old executive takes over for Robert Fornaro, who will remain as president at the Orlando-based air carrier.



Ulrich Schmidt, 50, VP of finance and business development, also flies into action as the new CFO of B.F. Goodrich Co. Schmidt succeeds Laurence Chapman at the Charlotte, N.C.-based aircraft-products and specialty- chemicals concern. Chapman is leaving to spend more time with his family, but will help with the transition.



Pump Up The Volume


Neil Johnston, 34, will be stationed at Cox Radio Inc., in Atlanta. Johnston, formerly VP of development for Cox Broadcasting, takes the post from Maritza Pichon, 46, who is leaving to spend more time with her family.


Perhaps Richmond, Va.-based Ethyl Corp. is fuming over the retirement of CFO J. Robert Mooney. But, it's unlikely, since the company has already named David A. Fiorenza, Ethyl's VP and treasurer, to serve as principal financial officer at the maker of fuel and lubricant additives.



Easy As ABC

Bring Matt Ackerman an apple! He was recently named CFO, a new position at Schoolpop Inc., a provider of fundraising solutions for K­12 schools. Prior to joining the Menlo Park, Calif.-based company, Ackerman served as VP of finance for GetThere.



Gary Ragusa is one health-conscious CFO. The EVP, financial and general business management, at Consac Industries Inc. recently added finance chief to his duties. Consac, headquartered in Hauppauge, N.Y., controls several brands, including Country-Life, Biochem, Long Life Teas, and Desert Essence.


Topeka, Kans.-based Western Resources Inc. put all its energy into finding a CFO to fill Bill Moore's shoes. The energy- services firm selected VP for strategic planning Jim Martin, 43, to replace Moore, 48, as EVP, CFO, and treasurer. Moore is resigning to pursue other interests. 



Dot-Com CFOs All Kooped Up.

Stephen Plutsky has been named CFO of ailing dot-com medical- information firm DrKoop.com, replacing Susan Georgen-Saad, who, along with former COO Dennis Upah, flew the coop in July. The departures sent the company's shares plunging 18 percent.


Plutsky will retain his job as VP, finance, at Prime Ventures LLC, one of the companies that has given DrKoop.com an emergency cash infusion of $27.5 million. Joining Prime Ventures in the bailout is ComVest Venture Partners, Eco Associates, and Netstar Ventures, among others. Prime Ventures chairman and CEO Richard M. Rosen-blatt was named CEO of DrKoop.com.


Compounding shareholder tensions are the Austin, Tex.-based company's second-quarter losses, which were wider than anticipated. Company revenue is expected to drop from $3 million to $2.5 million.



On The Road

After 36 years at automotive titan General Motors Corp., J. Michael Losh, 54, has decided to hit the road--literally. Losh, who announced his retirement as CFO of GM in September after six years in the CFO seat, is driving with wife Renee from Detroit to Utah, where they have a vacation home. They plan to stop at Yellow-stone National Park along the way, but the real coup for Losh is the trip itself. "I haven't been on a driving trip in 20 years," he says with a laugh. "Kind of ironic, since I worked for GM."


GM has named John Finnegan, EVP of GM and chairman and president of GMAC, as acting CFO until a permanent replacement is named. Although the company had been somewhat secretive about Losh's departure (see Grapevine, July), he says the company was just stalling in order to announce his retirement and his successor at the same time.


While at GM, Losh helped grow several car divisions, including the Pontiac unit, which went from sixth place to third in passenger- car sales in just five years. He also drove the company's treatment of its Hughes Electronics Corp. unit. "Mr. Losh helped split off EDS, was involved with the Hughes/GM stock swap, and made some hefty stock repurchases. I think he brought a lot to the company," says G. Patrick Dunkerley, an analyst with Securities Corp. of Iowa.


Some thought Losh's departure was expedited by the appointment of G. Richard Wagoner Jr. to the president and CEO seats this past June, but Losh says it was just the right time to go. Still, he plans to keep an eye on things. "I continue to be an avid follower of GM, because of my stock options and holdings." 



Safe Passage

For Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway Inc., Vasant M. Prabhu is just what the doctor ordered. Prabhu, 40, is replacing David G. Weed as CFO of the food and drug retailer. He was previously president of the information and media-services unit of McGraw-Hill Cos.



Lionel L. Nowell III has popped into the CFO spot at Somers, N.Y.-based Pepsi Bottling Group Inc. Former PepsiCo SVP and controller Nowell, 45, replaces John T. Cahill, who was promoted to president and COO.



Denise Fletcher is the master when it comes to finance, it seems. The former Bowne & Co. SVP and CFO has signed on as CFO at MasterCard International Inc. She replaces Frank Cotroneo, who left the Purchase, N.Y.-based credit-card giant in January to pursue a career at H&R Block Inc.



Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Dial Corp. hopes to spiff up its profits by placing Conrad A. Conrad, 54, in the CFO spot, which has been vacant since Susan Riley's August departure. Conrad was previously CFO and vice chairman at Quaker State Corp.


Unisys Corp., based in Blue Bell, Pa., has appointed Janet BrutscheaHaugen (interim CFO since December) to the SVP and CFO roles. Haugen, 41, had been VP and controller at the information services and technology firm. She was made interim CFO following the departure of Robert Brust, who became CFO of Eastman Kodak Co.


DaimlerChrysler Financial Services lost an extremely driven CFO to DaimlerChrysler AG, in Stuttgart, Germany. Michael Muehlbayer has been appointed SVP and treasurer at the U.S.-German automaker. David Olsen will be the new CFO.



Rock, Paper, Scissors

Packing it in at Rock-Tenn Co., a maker of packaging and paperboard headquartered in Norcross, Ga., are 21-year veteran president and COO Jay Shuster and CFO David Nicholson. Steven C. Voorhees, 45, a former managing partner at Kinetic Partners LLC, moves in as CFO.


Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Borders Group Inc. is no longer in a bind. The book and music retailer chose Edward Wilhelm, 41, for the SVP and CFO positions, replacing retiring Kenneth Scheve. Wilhelm was formerly VP of finance at subsidiary Borders Inc.



David C. Crikelair must have the right temperament to be CFO of E-Steel Corp. The New York­based E- commerce company, which serves the global steel industry, plucked Crikelair from his CFO spot at Equilon Enterprises (the joint venture between Texaco and Shell).



CFO Adventurers Anchors Aweigh.

Like most CFOs, Doug Webb, 39, of Logica North America, in Lexington, Mass., has probably seen some rough seas. But they don't compare with what he'll experience as a crew member on a 72-foot sailboat competing in this year's BT Global Challenge race. The BTGC pits sailors in an around-the-world race--the wrong way--against prevailing currents and winds.


The race, billed as "the world's toughest yacht race," is in its eighth year. A lifelong sailor, Webb initially landed one of two crew spots reserved for employees of companies that, like Logica, sponsor a boat. Webb, CFO for the past five years at the software, consulting, and integration firm headquartered in London, had signed on for just one leg of the multistaged race, which was scheduled to depart England on September 10, says Clyde Hakim, VP of marketing for Logica North America. "Then, one of the regular crew dropped out," says Hakim. "Doug applied for the spot and got it."


Webb has taken a one-year leave of absence from Logica, but Hakim says the company supports him fully. "When he's done," says Hakim, "he's welcome back." Filling his boat shoes is Matthew Brabin, 35, formerly finance and operations manager at Logica UK.

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