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From Fire to Fry-o-lator

The CFO of Williams-Sonoma leaves for a sweeter deal at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Also: road weary; into the arms of strangers; Citi slicker; and more.
CFO Staff, CFO Magazine
December 1, 2000

CFO John Tate, 50, is leaving San Francisco­ based Williams-Sonoma Inc. for a sweeter deal at Krispy Kreme Doughnuts Inc. in Winston- Salem, N.C.

"Most of us have been touched by this magical brand at some time in our lives," said Tate in a press release. "The opportunity to participate with this team in creating a global brand with explosive growth prospects was irresistible." The $200 million franchise went public last spring and expects to open 28 new stores this year. Tate will also be president of the company's manufacturing and distribution divisions.

The timing of Tate's departure from the $1.8 billion home-furnishings retailer coincided with a dismal pre-announcement that third-quarter earnings would come in at around 5 cents a share, down dramatically from First Call/Thompson Financial's estimate of 18 cents a share.

"Williams-Sonoma has historically been known for cutting-edge merchandise and has never had a top-line issue," says Ralph Jean, senior research analyst with First Union Securities. "Their problems have been related to managing the back end of the business, like inventory and expenses, which is related to senior management." He notes that this is Williams-Sonoma's second earnings "debacle" in Tate's 18-month tenure. The company announced a 13 cents per share earnings miss for last year's fourth quarter.

At Krispy Kreme, Tate replaces J. Paul Breitbach, 62, who is retiring after eight years. Sharon McCollam, previously VP of finance at Williams-Sonoma, will fill Tate's role.

Road Weary
Just two months after former General Motors Corp. CFO J. Michael Losh told CFO he was retiring to see something of the world, Losh, 54, has announced a new direction. The much-traveled executive will become chairman of auto-parts manufacturer Masotech Inc., headquartered in Taylor, Mich.

So, what's up at Ask Jeeves Inc.? The question-and-answer E-service firm has announced the resignation of CFO Tom Low. President Adam Klein will oversee financial operations until a successor is named.

Dow Jones & Co. received some surprising news of its own this month. Its highly touted CFO, Jerry Bailey, left suddenly for "unspecified family reasons." The New York­ based operator of the Wall Street Journal, Barron's, and other periodicals is conducting a search for Bailey's successor.

Into the Arms of Strangers
It appears Cummins Inc. CFO Kiran Patel's career needed fine-tuning. The 26-year Cummins veteran has left the Columbus, Ind.-based engine maker to join iMotors as finance chief. His replacement has not yet been named.

Donna Karan International has unveiled a new corporate lineup, with Joseph B. Parsons donning the newly created CFO/operations title. Parsons was previously chief financial and administrative officer at the fashion designer.

PeopleSoft Inc. has added a new body to its executive team. Kevin T. Parker, former SVP and CFO of Aspect Communications Corp., assumed the CFO spot at the Pleasanton, Calif.-based E-business applications provider. Predecessor Steve Hill was promoted to SVP of business development.

Citi Slicker
Barbara Yastine, former chief auditor at Citigroup, is something of a Citi-groupie. Yastine has been named CFO at Citigroup's investment bank, Salomon Smith Barney, and its Citibank corporate global relationship bank. She replaces Charlie Scharf, who left in June for BancOne Corp.

Pure Premium
Bradenton, Fla.-based Tropicana Products Inc. hand-picked Dennis F. Hareza to serve in the SVP and CFO positions, replacing John Stofko, who retired. Hareza was VP of financial planning and analysis at PepsiCo Inc. before joining the marketer of fruit juices.

Susan Guerin has gotten her Lerners permit. Guerin has been picked to succeed Ron Ristau as VP and CFO of The Limited Inc.'s Lerner New York division. Guerin joins the specialty store concern from Unilever's Lipton Co. Ristau is now EVP, operations and administration. 

Dot-com Defection: What Price Freedom?
Less than nine months into her new job as CFO at Priceline.com Inc., Heidi G. Miller, the former CFO of Citigroup Inc., left the company as its third-quarter results met previously announced warnings of a $2 million loss. Miller told the Wall Street Journal that she was disappointed that what she thought would be "a meaningful opportunity to grow an organization" didn't pan out. The news of her departure coincided with the announcement that 87 of Priceline's 535 employees were being laid off, and the news that fourth-quarter results will also be in the red. Bob Mylod, who was Priceline's SVP of finance, will succeed Miller.

Miller climbed fast in the financial services industry. After a 10-year stint at Chemical Bank, she became CFO at Travelers Group in 1995, and CFO of the merged Travelers and Citibank (renamed Citigroup) in 1998. She joined Priceline.com in March, a move seen by many as validation that New Economy companies could lure top talent.


Priceline's $2 million loss beat last year's $12 million shortfall and suggested that, despite the write-downs from shutting the company's grocery and gas businesses, profitability was near. But third-quarter revenue dropped from second-quarter figures, and fourth-quarter revenue will drop lower. Priceline, which lets customers name their own prices on a variety of products, would probably like to name its own stock price--it has crashed from April's high of $104 to below $5 a share.




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