AKRON-Pieces of the Goodyear succession puzzle began to fall into place at the tire maker's annual shareholders meeting April 10, when Goodyear Chairman and CEO Stanley C. Gault announced that Samir ``Sam'' F. Gibara, 55, is replacing retiring Hoyt M. Wells as president and chief operating officer. Mr. Gault declined to say who will replace him when he steps down at the close of 1995. But he did say he will stay on as a director and that Goodyear has several capable managers to select from, so looking outside the company ``won't be necessary.''
Goodyear won't combine the offices of president and chairman, Mr. Gault said, because ``one person traveling around the world simply cannot do it.''
The most common succession scenario being considered, according to a Goodyear spokesman, is Mr. Gibara taking Mr. Gault's post at the end of the year, with William J. Sharp, executive vice president of the firm's European operations, becoming president and chief operating officer.
Mr. Gault declined to disclose who the top candidates to succeed him are, adding, ``That hasn't been finally put to bed yet.'' He did say Goodyear may create an office of the chief executive, splitting the CEO duties between two or more executives.
Eugene R. Culler Jr., formerly vice president and CEO of Goodyear Canada Inc., replaces Mr. Gibara as executive vice president of the firm's North American tire operations. Daniel J. Patrick, previously the Canadian unit's chief financial officer, will serve as acting president and CEO of the operation.
A native of Cairo, Egypt, Mr. Gibara became executive vice presi-dent of North American Tires in May 1994, following the unexpected resignation of John F. Fiedler. Before that, Mr. Gibara, who also was named a director at the April 10 meeting, served as executive vice president of strategic planning and business development.
Mr. Gibara joined Goodyear in 1964 as a management trainee. He oversaw several of the firm's European operations from 1966 until 1989, when he became president of Goodyear Canada. In 1990 he advanced to president of Goodyear Europe and held that post until his 1992 appointment to the strategic planning post.
Mr. Gibara worked closely with Mr. Gault on the four-year financial plan Goodyear released last summer. Mr. Gault said he expects Mr. Gibara ``to follow the straight and narrow'' outlined in the plan.
``Stan's plan is unquestionably the plan for success as we lead through the end of this decade and into the 21st century,'' Mr. Gibara said. ``The whole map now is laid out for us. Our job now is to deliver.''
At least two securities analysts expect Mr. Gibara to succeed Mr. Gault.
The assumption, according to Harry Millis of Fundamental Research Inc., is that Mr. Gault is grooming Mr. Gibara to succeed him.
Marvin Behm, an analyst with Duff & Phelps Inc., agrees.
``Obviously, Sam's in the lead now,'' Mr. Behm said. ``This will give them a chance to work together. I think when Stanley thinks he's ready, they'll go ahead and do it.''
One analyst sees a different scenario.
It would be an unlikely and disruptive move to pull Mr. Gibara from his new post in less than nine months, according to David Garrity of Smith Barney Harris Upham & Co. Inc. A chief executive office may be the answer, he said.
Goodyear will ``unfold'' its successor plan before the end of this year, Mr. Gault said.