As an independent tire dealer, you have to appreciate Patrick W. Rooney. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.'s chairman and CEO for the past five and one-half years, Mr. Rooney, who retired April 28, upheld the company's creed. That is, he made sure it continued to offer dealers "good merchandise, fair play and a square deal."
In the competitive and rapidly changing tire environment of the past five years, it would have been easy for Mr. Rooney to stray from those ideals.
But while Cooper grew dramatically under Mr. Rooney's tenure, the company stayed true to its values.
It continues to make quality products, offer exemplary service and remain loyal to its independent tire dealer customers.
That's not to say Cooper is the same company it was even a year ago.
Yes, it continues to make and sell tires as it has since 1914, but tire manufacturing no longer dominates.
Despite its conservative approach to business, Cooper, under Mr. Rooney's leadership, showed the ability to recognize trends and make changes as necessary.
In the past year, the company, through acquisition, grew from 12 plants in three countries to 77 plants in 13 countries.
The majority of that growth came through the purchases of Standard Products Co. and Siebe Automotive, which have expanded Cooper's engineered products business to a size equi-valent to the tire side. When the full-year sales of these companies appear on Cooper's financial statement for 2000, the "little company from Findlay, Ohio," under Mr. Rooney's watch, will have grown 168 percent in sales to nearly $4 billion annually.
It may be difficult for some to accept such dramatic change, but Mr. Rooney recognized that for the company to survive, it needed to become more global.
In tires, Cooper also needed to establish a premier tire line to compete in the multi-brand world of the 21st century. He got that in the Pirelli brand after striking an alliance with the Italian tire maker to sell and market the product in North America.
In making these moves, Mr. Rooney strategically positioned Cooper for future success and growth.
True to his style, he ended his career in the quiet, unassuming way he ran the company.
On April 25, in his last official duty for the firm where he worked for 44 years, he drove the two and one-half hours from Findlay to Akron to deliver a talk to the Tire Society.
There was no entourage accompanying him, no PR person. He gave a thought-provoking speech about change, then left quietly for the drive home.
He didn't seek out special attention. But just as in his career at Cooper, Mr. Rooney left his mark. We wish him well.