IBM Corp. was looking for a CFO for 10 months, until they remembered Douglas L. Maine. At press time, the former CFO of MCI Telecommunications was said to be in final negotiations with IBM to assume the high-profile CFO post. You may remember him from our cover story on telecom’s top CFOs (“Turf Wars,” March 1997). Maine was the odd man out in MCI’s merger with WorldCom Inc. He would succeed Lawrence Ricciardi, who has held the post on an interim basis since G. Richard Thoman left last June to become president of Xerox Corp. Ricciardi would return to his previous job as SVP and general counsel.
STARTING CFO 2.0
Dennis R. Raney’s networking paid off. He was named acting CFO of computer-networking software maker Novell Inc., of Provo, Utah. Raney succeeds James R. Tolenon, who held the position for 15 years and is leaving to “pursue other interests.”
PepsiCo Inc. has a new CFO to go along with its neat-o new blue cans. He’s Michael D. White, former CFO of the beverage business. White replaces Karl von der Heyden, who joined Pepsi as a mercenary in the cola wars when he was lured out of retirement to become vice chairman and CFO last year. Von der Heyden, who is also the former CEO of RJR Nabisco Holdings Corp., will remain vice chairman.
Eight days after the biggest proposed merger of all time, the $83 billion combination of Citicorp and Travelers Group Inc., an analyst for Argus Research Corp. was calling it “old news.” That’s because another round of megamergers in banking and financial services was making headlines. BankAmerica Corp. announced a $60 billion deal with NationsBank Corp. and Banc One Corp. and First Chicago NBD Corp. proposed a $30 billion merger, pushing the consolidation trend among financial services firms into high gear (see “Building the Bank of the Future,” November 1997). “It’s like the sequel to Titanic,” says David Southwell, CFO of pharmaceuticals concern Sepracor Inc. “It’s a pretty wild time for banks.”
For the most part, CFOs are cheering the wave of mergers, which could lead to lower fees and expanded services. “The concept is appealing, as long as banks remain proactive,” says Darioush Mardan, CFO of Omtool Ltd., a Salem, New Hampshire, software development company. One problem is that the mergers are happening so fast that CFOs can’t keep up with them. It’s hard to remember that Salomon Bros. is now under the Travelers’s umbrella, not to mention that both will soon be part of Citigroup Inc. “The important thing is that clients know what services are offered,” says Mardan. “That will take some effort on the part of these new firms.”
Still, there is the regulatory obstacle to be overcome, at least in the Citigroup merger. “That could be the iceberg waiting to sink it,” jokes Mardan. But officials at both firms are confident. We “expect that current laws restricting [the merger] will change in the foreseeable future,” they said in a statement.
It’s annual-report season again, and among the wackier reports issued is Cognex Corp.’s 1997 annual, which is based on a children’s activity book. The report includes aconnect-the-dots revenue line and a crossword in the management’s discussion and analysis section. “The goal was to take what we do, which is relatively complex, and make it simple for people to understand,” says John Rogers, CFO of the Natick, Mass.-based maker of machine vision systems. The report is just one indicator of Cognex’s zany corporate culture (see “Method in the Madness,” January 1997).
Cognex isn’t the first to base its annual report on toddler reading material, though. Adaptec Inc.’s 1996 report used the story of Wally and Molly to explain the company’s high-tech data management products. The report included a dog named Data and such classic lines as “See Molly multi-task.”
Creativity can be expensive. Adaptec’s book was hardbound and printed on heavy paper. In contrast, Cognex kept a low budget. “We wanted to do it cheaply and with more creative flair than anyone else,” says Rogers. The report cost the company $2 per copy–about half the cost of the average annual report, according to a 1996 survey by the National Investor Relations Institute. Still, this year’s annual cost Cognex more than last year’s “Cheap Report,” which was produced for a miserly 21 cents a copy.