SAN ANTONIO-Sunil Kumar, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.'s executive vice president and president of Bridgestone/Firestone Tire Sales Co., has resigned to take an appointment with a New Jersey-based maker of commercial roofing products. John Lampe, president of BFS' Dayton Tire Co. division, has been appointed his successor.
The 45-year-old Mr. Kumar, who is credited with boosting U.S. market share for both the Bridgestone and Firestone brands, became president of Wayne, N.J.-based GAF Materials Corp.'s commercial products division but remains on BFS' board of directors.
``We very much regret the departure of Sunil Kumar,'' said BFS CEO Masatoshi Ono. ``Much of our company's growth and success over the past years can be directly attributed to his contributions.''
Mr. Kumar, a native of New Delhi, India, joined Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. in 1973 and created the firm's building products business seven years later. He became president of Bridgestone/Firestone Tire Sales in 1990. Two years later he was named executive vice president.
``I have reached a point in my life when I feel it is time to go in a new direction,'' Mr. Kumar explained. But he also acknowledged that the remote prospect, as an American in a foreign-owned company, of becoming BFS' top official entered into his decision.
``Yes, that was an issue, but not a big issue,'' he said. ``But it is something you have to think about.''
In his new position, Mr. Kumar said he plans to expand GAF's commercial roofing operations, which currently post annual sales of about $150 million.
Mr. Lampe also joined Firestone in 1973, spending much of his career overseas. In 1988, he began managing the sales and marketing of BFS' associate and private brand division.
Initially, he will ``continue the momentum they've got going over the last three years,'' the 47-year-old Mr. Lampe said in an interview during Dayton Tire's annual dealer meeting in San Antonio.
For the time being, he will remain president of Dayton, a position that probably will be filled within the next 90 days, he said.
Mr. Lampe praised Mr. Kumar'sreign as BFS Tire Sales president and said he considers his management style ``similar.''
``I'm not a micro-manager,'' he said. ``I don't look over people's shoulders....I'm a great believer in this new concept that people in my position aren't managers anymore. They've got to be leaders and coaches.''
He got his chance to lead this summer when the United Rubber Workers union struck Dayton's Oklahoma City tire plant and warehouse. Salaried employees and top Dayton officials, including Mr. Lampe, ``pulled their duty'' working in the warehouse, he told applauding Dayton dealers during the San Antonio meeting.
``I spent three years in the army, and I guess maybe the only thing I learned was the fact that you can't expect your people to do something that you're not willing to do yourself,'' he told reporters later.
While at Dayton, Mr. Lampe was responsible for moving the company's headquarters in 1991 from Akron to Oklahoma City, where the firm's manufacturing facility is located.
That move allowed the company to become more autonomous and focused on the associate brand market, he said.
``In 1991 when we were in Akron we were getting involved in (original equipment) things and Firestone brand things, and we just never could maintain the proper focus,'' Mr. Lampe said.
Separating the company from its parent forced Dayton to create closer internal relationships, he said. The more focused company also formed stronger bonds with its dealers, the types of relationships Mr. Lampe considers essential in the business environment.
The only problem is when those relationships have to come to an end.
``The Dayton family of dealers is a smaller family....Those that don't handle Bridgestone (and) Firestone I won't have as much contact with, and I'll miss that,'' he said.