Duty Calls

Senior executives are called to serve their country; a new head of the Washington National Opera returns to his roots; CFOs on the move.
CFO StaffJune 1, 2004

With an estimated 100,000 executives active in the National Guard and Reserve, many companies are facing the departures of their top executives for long stints in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of them are CFOs. What happens to their jobs?

Legally, employers must keep an employee’s position open for up to five years of service in any branch of the military. According to the National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, employers must also provide the employee with seniority and related benefits upon his or her return, as well as any necessary training to update skills. The employee has responsibilities as well: most important, to let the employer know that he or she may be sent on active duty.

Mike Dosland, senior vice president, treasurer, and CFO of First Federal Capital Corp. in La Crosse, Wis., gave his boss a year’s notice that he might be deployed as a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard. This April, his suspicions proved correct. Dosland has been activated and has left his job, but has not yet received a deployment order; if called overseas, he may serve for as long as two years.

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When Dosland, who has been a member of the National Guard for more than 20 years, alerted president and CEO Jack Rusch about his possible departure, Rusch acted quickly. He hired Mark Zorko from Tatum Partners, a firm that places interim financial executives, to work alongside Dosland in a consulting role so that he could take over the CFO position if necessary. “We brought in Tatum as an insurance policy, and it paid off,” says Rusch.

But Dosland’s CFO job isn’t completely secure, thanks to a turn of domestic events. At the end of April, First Federal announced that it was being acquired by Associated Banc-Corp, a Green Bay, Wis., bank. Once the deal is completed, Associated’s management will pick the CFO. The company is legally required to offer employment to Dosland when he returns from duty, however. “They’ll give him a chance to prove himself in a one-year employment contract,” says Rusch. —Kate O’Sullivan

Renaissance Man

They say that no experience is ever wasted. Blair Caple, the new chief of staff for the Washington National Opera, is living proof. As a teenager, Caple was a competitive concert pianist. He decided he lacked the skill to get to the top, so he trained as an architect. Then in the late 1980s, a recession hit and layoffs swept the profession, so he went to business school. He entered the nonprofit sector, taking positions as CFO of Earthwatch Institute, a Boston-based conservation and scientific-funding agency, and then as CFO of the WTA Tour, the sanctioning body for women’s professional tennis.

Given his eclectic background, it should come as no surprise that Caple landed most recently at the Opera, where he spends his days employing all the skills he picked up along the way. He is responsible for administrative oversight, operations, and all finance functions. (The Opera has no CFO.)

“It’s a joy to come to the Opera,” says Caple. “It’s like coming back to my roots. It combines everything I’ve learned: the music, the architecture, the diplomacy skills. I’m loving it.”

His musical training gives him “street cred” with the artists, including Plácido Domingo, the opera’s general director. His experience in architecture and with nonprofit organizations helps him work with the Opera’s wealthy trustees, the passionate employees, the audience, and the artists for whom the quality of the music and the performance is of paramount importance. But as the Opera’s money man, how does Caple say no to Plácido?

“After 15 years in the nonprofit sector,” says Caple, “I’ve learned that confrontation with any of your constituencies is a bad idea. If you’re good, you don’t have to say no; you’ve been able to guide the process. This is where financial managers could learn something from the nonprofit world. Process is everything.” —Kris Frieswick

CFOs on the Move

Just 25 days after being named CFO of Computer Associates International Inc., Jeff Clarke, former CFO of Compaq Computer Corp., was named COO. The position had been empty since 2000…. Judith Boynton is out as Royal Dutch/Shell Group CFO and group managing director due to the reserves disclosure problems at the oil giant…. Frank Dunn, CEO of Nortel Networks Corp., was fired in the wake of an accounting scandal that allegedly took root during his tenure as CFO. Also axed were CFO Douglas Beatty and controller Michael Gollogly.