AKRON-Goodyear has named Samir F. Gibara executive vice president of North American Tires following the sudden departure May 13 of John F. Fiedler from that post. According to Goodyear, Mr. Fiedler resigned unexpectedly to pursue what it called ``other interests.'' Mr. Fiedler declined comment, indicating only that his plans will be announced later.
According to securities analysts, the resignation puts Mr. Gibara at the top of the list of internal candidates to succeed Goodyear's 68-year-old chairman and CEO, Stanley C. Gault, who plans to remain with the company through 1995.
Hoyt M. Wells, the company's 66-year-old current president and chief operating officer, has said he will retire at the end of this year.
Others rumored to be under consideration for CEO include:
William J. Sharp, 52, the company's executive vice president of European operations; and,
Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. President Lee N. Fiedler, 52, John Fiedler's younger brother.
Goodyear said Mr. Gault has agreed to stay on with the understanding that a new CEO would be named sometime next year.
Analysts speculate that by remaining on another year, he will be able to select his successor.
Goodyear, they point out, is in the process of fine-tuning its strategic plan for the next three years and Mr. Gibara, as chief architect of that plan, is the most likely candidate to implement it.
Mr. Gibara, 55, a native of Cairo, Egypt, has been with Goodyear 29 years, most recently as executive vice president for strategic planning and business development and acting CFO.
Mr. Fiedler, also 55 and widely known to dealers, had headed Goodyear's North American tire operations since 1991. Prior to that, he served two years as president and CEO of the firm's Cumberland, Md.-based Kelly-Springfield subsidiary.
In the same May 3 news release detailing Mr. Gault's decision to stay on, Goodyear also announced the election of former General Electric Co. executive Robert W. Tieken as executive vice president and chief financial officer.
Although he's not considered a front runner in the competition, at least one analyst would include Mr. Tieken on the list of possible candidates for Goodyear's top job.
A 32-year veteran with GE-most recently as vice president of finance and information technology-he will take over some of Mr. Gibara's duties, serving as acting supervisor for strategic planning and business development.
As with former CFO Oren G. Shaffer's 1992 resignation, Mr. Fiedler's departure is viewed by securities analysts as a reaction to the realization he was unlikely to succeed Mr. Gault.
``I think both gentlemen left because they doubted they'd ever get the top position,'' speculated Scott Soffen, an analyst with Lehman Brothers Inc., adding that Goodyear still could surprise everyone and go ``outside'' for its next chief.
Analyst Harry Millis of Fundamental Research Inc. in Cleveland observed that it's not uncommon for competing executives to leave a company after it becomes obvious they're not going to win the race.
``This happens all the time in major corporations,'' said Mr. Millis, who pointed out that Mr. Gault himself quit General Electric in 1979 after failing to win the top job at that firm. Two years later, he became chairman and CEO of Rubbermaid Inc.-a post he held until he retired, then came to Goodyear in June 1991.
Mr. Millis described John Fiedler as a highly capable executive who had the uncomfortable task of ``trying to soothe the ruffled feathers'' of dealers frustrated over Goodyear's departure from its traditional marketing policies.
The analyst speculated that Mr. Fiedler will resurface at the helm of another major company.
During his three years as head of North American tire operations, the tire maker retreated from its traditional practice of distributing the Goodyear brand solely through dealers and company stores.
While broadening its marketing base, Goodyear angered some dealers by signing mass merchandisers and discounters, including Sears, Roebuck and Co., Discount Tire Co., Canadian Tire Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores-adding 1,500 more outlets for its brand.
Neither analyst foresees major changes in the direction of Goodyear's tire operations regardless of who gets the top executive post.
Mr. Gault is taking great care to find a replacement who will maintain the culture he developed at Goodyear, Mr. Soffen said.
He predicted that Mr. Gibara, with nearly 30 years of Goodyear experience-including overseeing operations in Europe and Canada-should handle his new position well. ``I don't think anything's going to throw him.''
Beth Ann Earle in Akron contributed to this report.