People

Days of Wine and Closes: Kendall-Jackson CFO To Retire

Second senior executive to leave vintner in three months. Also, will Bayer's CFO become Bayer's CEO?
Lisa YoonSeptember 11, 2001
  • Alfred Rossow Jr., a veteran of the beverage industry, is retiring as CFO at Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates Ltd. Rossow joined the Santa Rosa, California-based winemaker in 1999, coming over from The Boston Beer Co. Rossow served as executive vice president, CFO, and director at the New England-based brewery, which makes the Samuel Adams family of beers and ales. Before joining Boston Beer, Rossow held executive spots at beverage companies such as Pepsi-Cola and A&W Beverages, as well as consultant gigs for Cadbury Schweppes and Perrier Group, among others.

    Kendall-Jackson vice president of finance and administration John Bridendall will serve as interim CFO until a permanent finance chief is appointed.

    Rossow is the second Kendall-Jackson senior executive to retire in three months. In June, Lewis Platt left the CEO position after 18 months on the job. At the time, the former Hewlett-Packard executive said he was retiring because he had achieved what he had set out to do at Kendall-Jackson — namely, separate the vintner’s mass-market brands from its superpremium wines. Platt also mentioned plans to start his own winery.

    It’s unclear what departing CFO Rossow plans to do in his spare time. But observes say he leaves Kendall-Jackson with the company’s glass more than half-full. The winemaker, which scrapped plans for a sale earlier this year, is purveyor of the U.S.’s top-selling chardonnay, Vintner’s Reserve. For 2000, the company reported sales of around $362 million, up 9.5 percent from the previous year.

  • Officials at German drug giant Bayer AG have probably been reaching for some aspirin of late. Bayer’s share price recently tumbled 23 percent because of the company’s recall of anti-cholesterol drug Baycol.

    Now the manufacturer is battling rumors about changes in the company’s management. On Monday executives denied speculation that CEO Manfred Schneider would exit ahead of schedule. The Financial Times Deutschland suggested that Schneider, who is set to leave his post in April, might step down as early as this week.

    Whenever it is Schneider leaves, many observers predict CFO Werner Wenning will take his place as Bayer CEO. In fact, some analysts believe the company will officially announce Wenning’s selection on Thursday.

    Wenning, a Bayer lifer, joined the drug company in 1966. Still, some analysts believe he is more open to change than Schneider, who has been head of the company’s board since 1992. One possible change: ending Bayer’s “four pillar” structure. Under that set-up, the German manufacturer has run its four primary lines of business (chemicals, drugs, agrochemicals, and polymers) as one business. Schneider is believed to have resisted calls to break those operations into discrete units.

    Analysts say Wenning — if chosen as new CEO — might push for Bayer to relinquish control of its drug-making operations. Barrie James, an analyst at U.K.-based Pharma Strategy Consulting, told Reuters: “He (Wenning) can come in as the man appointed to do it, while the incumbent looks like the guy who sold out.”

  • Board members of America West Holdings Corp., parent of America West Airlines, elected Bernard Han to the posts of executive vice president and CFO. Han replaces Thomas MacGillivray. The announcement comes along with news of other senior management changes at the airline. J. Scott Kirby, for one, has been named executive vice president of corporate — a job that includes overseeing human resources, risk management, and purchasing.

    Han was previously senior vice president of marketing and planning at the Phoenix-based airline and travel-services company. Han joined America West in 1996 as vice president of financial planning and analysis and was promoted to senior vice president of planning in 1998. Prior to joining America West, Han held finance positions at Northwest Airlines. He holds a bachelor of science, master of electrical engineering, and master of business administration from Cornell University.

    Han has some choppy air ahead of him. While America West has reported improvements in operations and customer service, the airline still receives more customer complaints than the industry average. In an interview with Dow Jones last week, America West CEO Douglas Parker, who joined the company as CFO in 1995, claimed that America West gets a lot of complaints because customers have a fixed image of the carrier’s service. “I have a hypothesis…that if a customer is flying on American Airlines and [the employees] tell [the passenger] that they are having a weather situation, that customer is less likely to complain than if the same thing happens on America West,” Parker said in the interview. He added that the company’s management needs to work hard to change public perception about the airline.

    Changing minds on Wall Street won’t be any cakewalk, either. Many analysts rate America West at the bottom of airline and travel stocks. To improve its standing on the Street, Parker said America West needs to show strong financials for a sustained period. That won’t be easy — particularly given the less-than-rosy numbers now being forecast for the travel sector.