Human Capital & Careers

Capital Venture

Washington, D.C., CFO runs for mayor.
CFO StaffAugust 1, 1998

Anthony Williams likes his similes and metaphors. The charismatic former CFO of Washington, D.C., turned mayoral candidate, compares his financial turnaround of the embattled capital to raising the Titanic. He likens his candidacy to a turboprop plane trying to get off the ground with little fuel– that’s campaign funding–and no brakes. And he says voting for one of his three major opponents, D.C. council members Jack Eavans, Kevin Chavous, or Harold Brazil, would be like “giving the keys back to the people who wrecked the car after you went into the garage and rebuilt it.” But the one image you won’t hear him use, though some would like to stick him with it, is that of a dispassionate bean counter running for mayor.

“Some people think this is a weird idea,” says Williams. “But others recognize that CFOs are more about strategic planning and getting things done.” Indeed, he has accomplished a lot since his appointment as CFO of the District in 1995, when a financial control board was put in place after the federal government seized control of the city’s finances. The city had piled up a deficit of almost $400 million, and was projected to incur $300 million more over the next three years. “It was basically insolvent,” says Williams. The tax-return filing system was to pile returns in great heaps on the basement floor. But the man known for his bow ties moved quickly. He declared “glasnost” on the city’s finances, once remarking to the press that there sure were a lot of dead people on the payroll. He vowed to resign if the District didn’t get a clean opinion on the audit. It did.

Williams rebuilt the tax department and budget process with lightning speed, using corporate- world practices like hiring consultants and improving financial data. “We brought a sense of urgency, and rebuilt from the ground up,” he says.

Although many complained that Williams cut too many jobs and services, he stunned his detractors with a budget surplus of $185.9 million in FY1997. But, he says, he’s running for mayor because he knows there’s still a long way to go. “The city is at a crossroads,” he says. “I’m the best person to take it the next mile.” But he wouldn’t do it alone. If elected, his first order of business? “Find a top-notch CFO.”

Finance Doctors

Aetna Inc. is glad to have met Alan J. Weber. The Hartford insurance and health-care company named him CFO, filling a spot that had been vacant for almost a year. Before joining Aetna, Weber spent 27 years at Citicorp’s Citibank unit. He was also named vice chairman for strategy and finance at the ailing insurer, succeeding Richard Huber, now chairman and CEO. John Kim had held the CFO post on an interim basis.

Oxford Health Plans Inc. is in critical condition, so the Norwalk, Conn., health-care company, which suffered major losses tied to a computer-system glitch, named Yon Yoon Jorden EVP and CFO, as part of a major management transplant (see “More Room at the Top,” page 30). She succeeds Albert A. Koch, who held the post on an interim basis after Andrew B. Cassidy resigned last December. Jorden was most recently CFO of Aera Energy LLC, in Bakersfield, Calif., but has also served as CFO of managed-care company Wellpoint Health Networks Inc.

Scrap Payments

Former executives of Waste Management Inc., including former CFO James E. Koenig, will receive large payouts despite their alleged involvement in an accounting scandal that inflated profits at the Oak Brook, Ill., trash hauler. Koenig will get $2.6 million as part of an accelerated pension payment due to the company’s merger with USA Waste Services Inc. Dean L. Buntrock, chairman and CEO at the time of the questionable accounting, is slated to receive $13.4 million. The SEC is still investigating the accounting irregularities that led WMI to restate results back to 1991.

Ira Zar is going for IT. He was named SVP and CFO of Computer Associates International Inc. The former treasurer at CA succeeds Peter Schwartz, who is retiring from the Islandia, N.Y.-based software company but will remain for a year to help with the transition. Entergy Corp. is looking to C. John Wilder to provide a spark. He was named EVP and CFO of the New Orleans­based electric utility. He succeeds Gerald McInvale, who resigned amid a broad management shake-up in December. Wilder was most recently CEO of Shell Capital, a London-based capital and risk-management company.

The Temp

Jon Chait is temporarily unemployed. He resigned as CFO and head of international operations at Manpower Inc., after his influence was cut back at the Milwaukee-based temporary-employment firm. VP, treasurer, and chief accounting officer Michael Van Handel was named acting CFO.

Steve Jackson landed in the co-pilot seat at Reno Air. He was named SVP and CFO of the airline. The former CFO of Mesa Airlines, in Farmington, N.M., succeeds B.J. Rone, who left to pursue other opportunities.

Gee, Whiz!

GTE Corp. made a local connection when it called on Daniel P. O’Brien to be its next CFO. The former treasurer succeeds J. Michael Kelly, who left the Stamford, Conn.-based telecommunications company to become SVP and CFO of America Online Inc., in Dulles, Va. Kelley succeeds Lennert Leader, who was named president of AOL Investments in February.

Take a note. Former EVP and CFO of American Pad & Paper Co. James W. Swent III was promoted to CEO after just a month on the job. He succeeds Charles G. Hanson III, who retired in July. AP&P has yet to name a replacement as CFO. Prior to joining the Dallas-based paper and office-products maker, Swent was CEO and CFO of Cyrix Corp., a Richardson, Tex., microprocessor maker.

Robert M. Aiken Jr. is walking into the sunset. He retired as EVP and CFO of Sun Co., a Philadelphia-based energy refining company. He will be succeeded by Thomas W. Hofmann, who had been controller at Sun.

Iomega Corp. CFO Leonard Purkis decided to look for a new gig, following the departure last March of former CEO Kim Edwards. Purkis is leaving the troubled computer-storage company to become VP, finance and administration, at E*Trade Group Inc., an online discount brokerage firm in Palo Alto, Calif.