AKRON-Though not in his official title, Samir F. (Sam) Gibara may as well add ``juggler'' to his list of duties. As expected, on June 4 Goodyear's board of directors elected him chairman, effective July 1. That means the 57-year-old Egyptian-born executive will, at least for a time, juggle those responsibilities in addition to functioning as the tire maker's CEO, president and chief operating officer.
It's a full plate, and he's undoubtedly up to the task. But industry analyst Harry Millis believes by year's end Goodyear will be run by a team of ``four or five key people''-with authority over major areas of the company-who will report to Mr. Gibara.
``What remains is another shoe, or more than one shoe to drop,'' said Mr. Millis, of Cleveland-based Fundamental Research Inc.
He noted that retiring chairman Stanley C. Gault ``said he thought that Goodyear was too big and complex to have any one person serve'' in all those positions-``and Sam has agreed with that.''
Mr. Millis foresees the establishment of an office of the chairman or president, with shared duties. That probably won't happen before Mr. Gault's retirement on June 30, but likely will occur prior to the end of the year.
Nonetheless, the analyst said he doesn't expect much to change at the Akron-based firm since it was Mr. Gibara who headed the committee that developed Goodyear's current strategic plan.
Perhaps what will be different is the company's public persona.
While Mr. Millis called Mr. Gibara a ``very effective spokesman,'' personable, outgoing and ``very good'' at handling public appearances, he is not quite the charismatic ``born salesman'' as is Mr. Gault, 70, who is stepping down after a five-year stint at the tire maker's helm.
His tenure-which followed on the heels of a short-lived retirement from Rubbermaid Inc. in Wooster, Ohio, where he was chairman and CEO-was highlighted by marketing coups such as the debut of Goodyear's Aquatred wet-weather tire.
``I'd be surprised if Sam got as much attention in the media as Stan has. So I'd guess the com- pany will have a little lower profile,'' said Mr. Millis, describing Mr. Gibara as a well-rounded, financially oriented planner who will get more involved in day-to-day operations and less involved in Goodyear's marketing aspects.
He joined Goodyear in France in 1964 and moved to the Akron headquarters in 1992. In April 1995 Goodyear named Mr. Gibara president and COO and last January he became CEO.
Though it's too early to tell, Mr. Gibara should prove very effective in delegating responsibilities, even though he pays a lot of attention to detail, Mr. Millis said.
Prime candidates to occupy Goodyear's power-sharing inner circle, according to the analyst, include:
William J. Sharp, named last February to the new post of president of global support operations and currently second in command at Goodyear;
Eugene Culler, executive vice president, North American tires; and
Kelly-Springfield Tire President Lee Fiedler.
On June 1, Messrs. Culler and Fiedler assumed leadership of the company's realigned North American tire operations, a move to create a more efficient, autonomous unit, Goodyear said.
In line with its current strategy, Mr. Millis predicted Goodyear will continue to court growth in the international arena, particularly in Eastern Europe and Asia.
On the domestic side, the analyst said he expects to see some acquisitions in the company's automotive- rather than tire-related areas. However, ``auto suppliers are realizing they have to be global players,'' he said, ``and right now most of Goodyear's non-tire operations are in North America, so I expect a greater role for non-tire operations internationally.''
Mr. Millis also anticipates a continued thrust at introducing new products ``and trying to be sure there's exclusive products for all channels in order to keep everybody happy-while paying close attention to costs.''
``But every time I talk to Sam,'' Mr. Millis added with a laugh, ``he tells me: `I keep reading in the papers what you think I should do, and I find it very interesting.' ''