Lesson for Sylvan Learning: Promote from Within

After a lengthy search for a new finance chief, the company hires its treasurer for the job. Also, former bank branch manager makes good.
Lisa YoonSeptember 26, 2001
  • Five months ago the executive management team at Baltimore- based company Sylvan Learning Systems Inc. reported it had begun a search for a new CFO. Yesterday, that search ended right where it began: in Baltimore. CEO Doug Becker announced management had decided to promote Sean Creamer, the company’s treasurer, to the CFO spot.

    ”Our nationwide, five-month search proved to us that the best candidate for the permanent CFO position was already on our team,” said Becker in a statement. Creamer, who had been interim CFO since April, joined the contract educational-services company in 1996 as head of tax. He went on to hold other spots in the finance department and was appointed treasurer in February. Before joining Sylvan, Creamer worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers as well as Mobil Corp.

    Sylvan Learning has been one of the better-performing stocks on Nasdaq, and management reported impressive results for the second quarter.

    In addition to Creamer’s promotion, William Dennis was named CFO and COO at the company’s Sylvan International Universities subsidiary.

    This is switch in subject matter for Dennis, who for most of his career has worked in the financial services sector. Most recently he served as president, COO, and director of International Assets Holding Corp., a brokerage firm specializing in trading international securities for retail and institutional investors. Before that, Dennis was CFO at Tucker Anthony Sutro, where he helped orchestrate that company’s 1998 initial public offering. Earlier, he served as CFO at Merrill Lynch Capital Markets. He also held senior international positions with the Exxon Corp., including that of CFO of Esso Argentina.

  • Officials at Canadian chemicals producer Nova Chemicals Corp. announced that CFO Wayne Lunt is leaving the company ”to pursue other business opportunities.” Lunt had been the CFO at Nova Chemicals for three years.

    Company management also announced that Larry MacDonald, currently senior vice president of manufacturing, East, would step in as the new CFO. MacDonald has also served as the controller at the company, which makes raw plastic materials.

    “Larry’s experience…will not only benefit our financial operations, but also make our whole company stronger,” said CEO Jeffrey Lipton in a statement. It appears the company may need to get stronger. Prudential Securities recently downgraded Nova, along with several other chemical companies, because of weaker-than-expected margins. Early this month, management at the Toronto-based Nova warned of wider- than-expected losses for the third quarter.

    MacDonald will work out of the company’s new U.S. operating center, located in Pittsburgh.

  • Managers at Main Street Banks Inc. appointed Robert McDermott to the dual posts of executive vice president and CFO. McDermott joins the Atlanta bank holding company from SouthTrust Corp. At SouthTrust, McDermott was responsible for analyzing bank operations to find ways to grow revenues and reduces costs.

    A Villanova University accounting alumnus and career banker, McDermott started out at Washington Mutual Inc., where he held such jobs as branch manager and division controller. Since then he has worked at various other banks including First Union Corp., where he was director of decision support.

  • Dilek Samil was named CFO and senior vice president of finance at Cleco Corp., a Pineville, Louisiana-based energy- services company. It seems change was in order for Samil, who joins Cleco after 22 years at FPL Group Inc., another energy company. At FPL, she held positions including vice president of finance for FPL Energy and treasurer of FPL Group, the parent company of Florida Power & Light Co. Samil’s most recent role was vice president of special projects.

    Cleco executives said Samil will also serve as CFO for Cleco Power LLC, the Cleco’s regulated electric utility subsidiary. Samil has a bachelor’s degree in computer science and an M.B.A. from the University of Florida.