In March, burger behemoth McDonald’s Corp. caught the market unawares by announcing the pending retirement of CFO Michael Conley. “It was a surprise. He was well regarded among the investment community,” says Lehman Brothers Inc. analyst Mitchell Speiser.
In fact, the news left investors missing more than a few nuggets of information about the upcoming departure of the 26-year McDonald’s veteran, who has been CFO since 1996. The four-line press release announcing the news said that Conley’s retirement was a “personal decision Mike made some time ago,” adding that he will stay until a replacement is found.
Speiser says news of the McDonald’s search for a replacement for Conley was leaked, which may have forced the company to go public with the news earlier than intended. “But,” he adds, “McDonald’s also had to make some managerial moves to show they understand the concerns investors must have due to the weak performance of the stock.”
It’s not clear that Conley was a fall guy, says Speiser, but if so, he was the wrong one. “Operational and marketing issues are the source of the problems they have control over, not financial leadership,” he says.
McDonald’s has had its share of uncontrollable problems, too, including currency fluctuation and “Mad Cow” disease overseas. In a mid- March press release, the company announced that first-quarter earnings would be lower than anticipated, in part because “the effect of consumer concerns regarding the European beef supply has persisted longer than we expected.”
It’s a dog-eat-dog world, but Thomas Liston is up to the challenge. Liston, previously secretary, treasurer, and VP, finance, of Internet retail specialty firm Little Switzerland, was recently named interim EVP and CFO at Petsmart Inc., located in Phoenix. He takes the leash from Neil T. Watanabe, who resigned to pursue other career interests but will remain during the transition.
For Mitch Hill, it’s “goodbye.com.” Hill was CFO of Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Buy.com Inc., which recently bid adios to both Hill and CEO Gregory Hawkins. The pair stepped down after a disagreement about the online shopping service’s direction. Robert Price, former PairGain Technologies Inc. CFO, has been named as Hill’s successor.
Also on the way out is Carlisle Cos. vice chairman and head of finance Dennis Hall. Hall, 59, plans to retire from the construction, automotive, and industrial products concern headquartered in Syracuse, N.Y., after an “appropriate transition period” of close to a year. The company also moved president Richmond McKinnish to the additional post of CEO.
DRIVE, HE SAID
James E. Jack, 59, is no longer wagon master at Coachmen Industries Inc. Jack left the maker of recreational vehicles and modular housing to pursue other opportunities. General counsel and secretary Rick Lavers was chosen as interim CFO by the Elkhart, Ind.- based firm while it searches for a permanent successor.
MANDELL IN THE MIDDLE
Who wants to be a television network CFO? Andrew J. Mandell, that’s who. Mandell replaces Dennis Farrell as EVP and CFO of Fox Cable Networks Group. Farrell remains with FCNG in a not-yet-disclosed position. Mandell was formerly EVP of Universal Creative at Universal Studios.
The corporate office of Brown-Forman Corp. is toasting Phoebe A. Wood, 47, who will be heading up finance at the Louisville-based alcoholic-beverage and consumer-products company. The new finance chief comes to Brown-Forman from Motorola subsidiary Propel Inc., where she held the same title. Wood succeeds Steven B. Ratoff, who has resigned.
The top brass at Russ Berrie & Co. must think John D. Wille has a gift for finance. Wille was recently appointed VP and CFO of the gift-products manufacturer, which hails from Oakland, N.J. The 45-year-old executive joins Russ Berrie from Betesh Group, a New Yorkbased distributor of handbags and other items. He replaces Nicholas Truyens, who resigned this past December.
Philip Terenzio will be offering some support to Warnaco Group Inc. The New Yorkbased underwear manufacturer plucked Terenzio out of the top finance spot at BestFoods, a unit of Unilever/ Plc/NV, and placed him in the CFO position. The role has been vacant since the company named former finance chief William Finkelstein to head up its Calvin Klein unit.
Remember the name of the astronaut who stayed in orbit around the moon while Neil Armstrong took his famous giant leap for mankind? Didn’t think so.
Christopher E. Kubasik, 40, the new CFO of aerospace giant Lockheed Martin Corp., may find himself similarly eclipsed, at least for a while. The former Lockheed controller follows in the wake of Wall Street hero and CFO Robert Stevens. Named president and COO five months ago, Stevens has held both CFO and COO titles since, and he’s in no hurry to relinquish his charmed relationship with the Street. “After the transition, I expect to have the same level of disclosure that Bob had,” says Kubasik, adding, “He and other executives will meet with Wall Street as appropriate.”
Kubasik, who spent 17 years as an aerospace defense specialist at Ernst & Young before joining Lockheed Martin in November 1999, says he and Stevens “share similar beliefs and values.” Wall Streeters should like that. Although still unfamiliar with the new kid on the block, they love Stevens. “Bob has been absolutely terrific,” gushes SG Cowen analyst Cai von Rumohr.
Von Rumohr is relieved that Stevens wasn’t lured away during the brief tenure of Lockheed COO Louis R. Hughes. “It was clear they needed to move Stevens up,” he adds.
By the way, it was Michael Collins who hung out on the dark side of the moon.
MOVIN’ ON UP
There are only three things that matter in real estate: location, location, location. The same apparently applies to stock listings. In February, E-Trade Group Inc., a Menlo Park, Calif., online personal financial services company, moved out of its old digs on Nasdaq, where it has been listed since its August 1996 initial public offering, and built a new home on the New York Stock Exchange.
“We had a good relationship with Nasdaq, but we are repositioning ourselves as a top global services company,” says E-Trade CFO Len Purkis. “The New York Stock Exchange is recognized as the top global exchange. The time was just right for the switch.”
With the plunging Nasdaq, one wonders if E-Trade just wanted to associate itself with more successful neighbors. As part of its image makeover, E-Trade also changed its fiscal-year end from September 30 to December 31, which, says Purkis, means “we’re now with the sort of players we want to be compared with.”
E-Trade’s move is certainly good news for the NYSE, where companies younger than three years are now eligible to be listed as long as they are affiliated with a listed company (either spun off or majority controlled), and have a market cap of $1 billion and revenues of $100 million. The NYSE is so interested in attracting new blood that it has set up “active new business groups” in New York and Silicon Valley to solicit CFOs to list on the exchange, says NYSE group EVP Catherine Kinney.
And what of the old neighborhood? Companies are always welcome to come home, says Jon Tognino, head of issuer affairs for Nasdaq.
FINANCE DU JOUR
Robert Schiffner is now head soup chef at Campbell Soup Co. Schiffner is replacing Basil Anderson, who announced his resignation in February. The new CFO comes to the Camden, N.J.-based soup giant from Nabisco Group Holdings, where he served as SVP and treasurer.
Have CFO tasks become too taxing for Lawrence W. Rogers? Perhaps. But that isn’t stopping W. Todd Grams from assuming the duties left behind by the retiring Internal Revenue Service CFO. Grams, previously acting finance chief of the Department of Veterans Affairs, replaces Rogers as CFO for the IRS.
With the merger of Chevron Corp. and Texaco Inc. nearing completion, the combined company, ChevronTexaco Corp., has announced its new management team. Dave O’Reilly, Chevron’s chairman and CEO, and John Watson, current VP and CFO, will retain their titles at the newly merged oil titan, headquartered in San Francisco.
SHE’S GOT THE BEAT
It’s only rock and roll, but new Warner Music Group (WMG) EVP and CFO Helen Murphy likes it. Murphy, formerly chief financial and administrative officer at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. (MSLO), takes over from Jerome N. Gold, who will act as consultant to AOL Time Warner division WMG, which owns several leading record companies.
And the CFO spot at MSLO didn’t stay vacant for long. The New York based integrated content company replaced Helen Murphy with controller James Follo. Follo, 41, joined Martha in July 1998.
ONE SIZZLIN’ CFO
A. Keith Wall has a huge stake in Culver City, Calif.-based Sizzler International Inc. Wall was appointed CFO of the restaurant operator, succeeding Steven Selcer, who left last year to pursue other interests. Wall had served as CFO of Central Financial Acceptance Corp.
Lands’ End Inc. hopes to gain new ground with its placement of Donald R. Hughes in the CFO spot. Hughes, 39, was VP of finance at the Dodgeville, Wis.-based catalog apparel merchant. He takes control from Stephen A. “Chip” Orum, who has retired.
David Hargreaves, 48, is game to take on the CFO role permanently at Pawtucket, R.I.-based Hasbro Inc. The former deputy CFO replaces Alfred J. Verrecchia, who serves as president and COO.
Former Phillips Petroleum Co. SVP and finance chief Tom Morris is gassing up and moving out. Morris retires in April from the petroleum company, located in Bartlesville, Okla. John Carrig, Phillips Petroleum’s SVP and treasurer, will take on the additional role of CFO.
END OF AN ERA
It’s A Wrap
Fredric G. Reynolds, 50, announced he would be leaving his position as CFO of $25 billion Viacom Inc. to relocate to southern California. “I love the company, and the merger [of CBS and Viacom] was awesome–almost seamless. [But] that’s when I started thinking, if there’s ever a good time to go, it might be now,” says Reynolds, who was CFO of CBS Corp. until Viacom acquired it last spring.
With half of the media giant’s properties, such as Paramount Pictures, on the West Coast, Reynolds says he expects to stay with the company in a yet-to-be-determined role, but that his new location “would not be conducive” to overseeing the New Yorkbased accounting, tax, and treasury functions. In the past seven years, Reynolds has overseen mergers and acquisitions that took him from Westinghouse, with 5 television and 17 radio stations, to Viacom, with 40 TV stations, 185 radio stations, and cable channels, including MTV and VH1.
Analysts were surprised, but not dismayed, at the announcement. “He’s a powerhouse CFO, but it’s not like he’s going to another company,” says ABN Amro Inc. analyst David Londoner.
A search for Reynolds’s successor is under way. In fact, a representative from Viacom called cfo.com shortly after the announcement, looking for a list of the CFOs of the 200 largest U.S. companies. When asked who might replace him, Reynolds offered only, “Stay tuned.”