Goldman's New Guru
When The Goldman Sachs Group LP agrees to underwrite an IPO, often one of its first suggestions is to bring in a new CFO. The New York investment bank is now practicing what it preaches. In anticipation of a $2 billion offering this spring, Goldman appointed David Viniar as CFO. He takes the reins from John Thain, who was promoted to co-COO in January. A corporate shake-up at that time led to the ouster of former co-CEO John Corzine.
Kellogg Co. is losing some of its snap, crackle, and pop. John Hinton resigned as CFO, along with three other high-ranking executives, ahead of the appointment of a new CEO. The struggling cereal maker, based in Battle Creek, Mich., has yet to name a replacement.
The spring line at AnnTaylor Stores Corp. includes new CFO Barry Erdos. The former COO of J. Crew succeeds Walter J. Parks, who resigned from the New York-based women's apparel retailer in March
. St. Louis-based specialty-chemicals manufacturer Sigma-Aldrich Co. is looking for a hero in newly appointed CFO Michael R. Hogan. He takes over a position that has been vacant since the mid-1998 departure of Peter Gleich. Hogan was formerly VP and controller at Monsanto Co.
Sure, it's not as big as winning an Oscar, but Miramax Films's Talk Media division is pleased to name Gerard A. Fragetti CFO. He was formerly EVP and CFO of News Corp.'s News America Publishing division. Talk Media, based in New York, was launched last July to produce media content, including Talk magazine by Tina Brown, former editor of Vanity Fair and New Yorker magazines.
The National Association of Securities Dealers Regulation Inc. announced a deal of its own with Salvatore F. Sodano. Sodano was named COO in addition to his CFO post at the stock-market regulatory organization, which owns Nasdaq Stock Market Inc. and the American Stock Exchange. He takes over for Richard G. Ketchum, who remains NASD president.
Burlington, Mass.-based Open Market Inc. is in the market for a new CFO. Regina Sommer left in April to pursue other interests after four years with the provider of Internet commerce software. Brad Nelson, currently CIO, was appointed interim CFO while the company searches for a successor.
On a sad note, the CFO community mourns the loss of Ann Greer Rector. Rector, the CFO of Owens & Minor Inc., a Richmond, Va., distributor of medical supplies, for four years, died in March. She was 41 years old.
A New Day for Sears
With sales stagnant and profits down, Sears, Roebuck and Co. is tired of the softer side of its financials. Enter new CFO Julian C. Day, a British-born surfer and runner, who left a rejuvenated Safeway Inc. in mid-1998 and took over finance at the giant retailer in March of this year. Not surprisingly, Sears went outside for a turnaround specialist, and Day is considered one of the best. Having studied at the school of Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Co., he took a struggling Safeway, where he was CFO, and helped CEO Steven Burd turn the Pleasanton, Calif., supermarket chain into the envy of the industry, with an annual growth rate of 34 percent over the last five years. At Safeway, Day combined store expansion and acquisitions with aggressive cost-cutting.
But can his skills be transferred to Sears, with its assortment of businesses, including car batteries, clothes, and credit cards? Day, 41, seems to think so. "Safeway is a business that is very much like Sears, in that it is highly execution-oriented. Getting things right in the company is an amalgamation of getting a lot of small things right in the right places," says Day. Safeway, he adds, focused on three things: costs, sales momentum, and return on capital, which he says are the three key components of building shareholder value at any company.
Day left Safeway looking for a challenge, and analysts say he's found one in Sears, especially in the apparel area, which makes up 20 percent of revenues. "The midsection of the apparel business has really gotten squeezed," says Steven Schuster, portfolio manager at Gemina Capital Management, in New York. "They're getting picked off on price from discounters and on fashion from the specialty side."
The credit-card business has been another sore spot for Sears. The appointment of Day will free up Alan Lacy to again concentrate on the struggling unit. The onetime CFO, who took the title again on an interim basis when Gary L. Crittenden left last August to join Monsanto Co., was put in charge of the credit-card business in December 1997 (see "Troubleshooters," August 1998).
Finished at 40...And Loving it
Lawrence Levy is leaving his job at Pixar Animation Studio to follow his dream. No, he's not starting his own consulting firm, or opening his own restaurant. He is taking time off, he says, to read more, to do some writing, to spend time with his family, and to reflect. As CFO, the 39-year-old Levy saw the maker of computer-generated animation films through a successful IPO, and to its current success with films like A Bug's Life. "I felt I had accomplished everything I set out to do at Pixar," says Levy, who took a position on the company's board of directors.
Executive recruiters say that, increasingly, finance executives are dropping out of the workforce for a period of time, or retiring early to work in the public sector or to concentrate on their personal lives. "A lot of CFOs are leaving their traditional business roles to do other things," says Charles Sweet, president of A.T. Kearney Executive Search. And they're leaving for the best of all reasons: many of them have made a lot of money.
Consider Phil Richards, age 51, who stepped down as CFO of Dollar General Corp., based in Nashville, in March. He said at the time that he was leaving to work on his golf game. "Stock options have been lucrative for me," he told the Wall Street Journal. "I'm in a great financial position." According to Sweet, the image of the out-of-work, aging executive who lost his or her job to a younger executive doesn't tell the whole story. Increasingly, he says, "they don't need to work."