When vFinance Inc. CFO Bob Williamson fiddles with the books, it’s a good thing. That’s because when he’s not working at the investment and brokerage firm, he’s a novelist with one murder mystery, The Seriously Pink V, published last August, and a sequel coming out later this year.
“Being a CFO is a very by-the-book job; really deadly boring stuff at one level,” says Williamson, who has held CFO positions at three Miami-area companies in the past 17 years. Writing the thrillers, he says, means he can live vicariously through characters like protagonist Tom Hudson, a venture capitalist who “does the things I wish I had done.”
Inspired by author Tracy Kidder’s account of the making of a computer in The Soul of A New Machine, Williamson began to chronicle the start-up phase of a technology company he founded in 1985. But in the process, he found himself injecting fictional twists into the story, resulting in his first murder mystery about 10 years ago. Although that book never made it to the presses, the sequel, The Seriously Pink V, did.
His day job as a CFO provides the “grist and fodder” for the writing, Williamson says, noting that his professional dealings with insurance companies gave him the necessary background for his forthcoming book, which is based on a complex insurance fraud. Ultimately, though, he hopes to be able to write full-time. “Writing is something I can do for a very long time,” he explains. “In fact, I would like to write until I drop dead.”
Testing, 1, 2, 3 . . .
Michael Saltzman must have passed inspection: he’s the new CFO at Underwriters Laboratories Inc. Saltzman replaced Larry Newman, who retired from the Northbrook, Ill.-based product tester.
Motorola Inc. called up David Devonshire to be its next CFO. Devonshire comes to the Schaumberg, Ill.-based telecommunications-equipment company from Ingersoll-Rand Co., where he had been CFO since 1998. He succeeds Carl Koenemann, who has retired.
Barnes&Noble.com turned the page when it named Kevin Frain as its new CFO. Frain, who joined the New York-based Web retailer in 1999, had served as VP of finance since early last year.
Into the Sunset
Elizabeth Acton is motoring ahead with her resignation as treasurer of Ford Motor Co.; she will become CFO at Detroit-based financial-services firm Comerica Inc. Acton replaces Ralph Babb Jr., who was named Comerica’s CEO and president in January. Malcolm Macdonald, Ford’s VP of finance and treasury matters, takes over as interim treasurer there.
Just what the doctor ordered? AmerisourceBergen Corp. promoted Michael DiCandilo to CFO. DiCandilo, who had been VP and corporate controller, succeeds Neil Dimick at the Valley Forge, Pa.-based pharmaceuticals-services firm. Dimick left the company for personal reasons.
It looks like executive recruiter Korn/Ferry International did a little recruiting for itself. The Los Angeles- based firm has named Gary Burnison as CFO, succeeding Elizabeth Murray, who resigned. Previously, Burnison was CFO and a principal at information technology service provider Guidance Solutions Inc.
He’s In Good Hands
Arthur Krause can hear a pin drop, but he’s still decided to retire as CFO of Sprint Corp. in June. Krause spent 31 years at the Westwood, Kans.-based communications company, 14 as its CFO. Robert Dellinger has been appointed Sprint’s EVP of finance, and is expected to succeed Krause as CFO.
Oil and oil must mix: John Carrig has been named CFO and EVP, finance, of ConocoPhillips, the company that will result from the merger of Conoco Inc. and Phillips Petroleum Co. The merger is expected to be finalized later this year. Carrig has been CFO at Bartlesville, Okla.-based Phillips Petroleum.
John Carl, CFO at Northbrook, Ill.-based Allstate Insurance Corp., is retiring from the insurer for health-related reasons. Before joining Allstate in 1999, Carl was CFO at Amoco Corp., now part of BP Plc. His successor at Allstate will be announced later this year.
Yellow Light Special
Kmart Corp.’s new CFO, Albert Koch, will need to proceed with caution. The U-turn specialist from turnaround firm Jay Alix & Associates has a bumpy road ahead of him. In March, Koch became the company’s fourth CFO in a year–just a few days after the bankrupt Troy, Mich.-based retailer posted a loss of $753 million for the four weeks ending February 27. He succeeded John T. McDonald Jr., who served for only four months. “They needed someone who’s been there before–someone who can fix the things that aren’t working,” says Marie Driscoll, an analyst at Argus Research Co.
Koch will get plenty of help from some brothers-in-arms. Kmart’s new CEO, James B. Adamson (who replaced Charles Conaway), worked with Koch in 1998 to resuscitate bankrupt Oxford Health Plans. New Kmart treasurer and fellow Jay Alix partner Ted Stenger also has an impressive turnaround record. But despite the new firepower, Kmart could prove unsalvageable. “It’s not just a turnaround; they are in survival mode,” says Kevin Gale, a fixed-income analyst at McDonald Investments Inc. “They have huge inventory management problems.”
Driscoll adds that Kmart’s loss-leader pricing strategy is flawed and that it needs to close more stores than the 283 announced so far. “It’s tough to compete with Wal-Mart,” says Driscoll. “It’s a losing battle.”