CLEARWATER, Fla.—Don't count him out yet. Morgan Tire & Auto (MTA) Inc. Chairman and CEO Larry Morgan is stepping down from those positions but will remain as an executive with and on the board of directors of the Bridgestone/Firestone subsidiary.
Expect the 58-year-old tire industry veteran not to stray too far from the business he readily admits he loves. Despite relinquishing the day-to-day reigns of the dealership he built into one of North America's largest, Mr. Morgan said he intends to take a more active role in strategic issues faced by the newly established Tire Industry Association and tend to family matters. And he told Tire Business he plans to “stay involved with our (Tires Plus) franchise program,” which is “firing back up” after a period of slow growth.
One hint that he plans to remain relatively active in Morgan Tire—and the industry? He proudly still calls it “our company,” and talks of expansion as well as desiring to “give something back” to the industry that he said has treated him so well over the years.
Bridgestone/Firestone—which has a 58-percent stake in the dealership—named Stu Watterson, a 32-year company veteran, as president and CEO of Morgan Tire, overseeing day-to-day operations. Mr. Watterson most recently was vice president of the Northeast zone of Bridgestone/Firestone Retail & Commercial Operations (BFRC). Larry Magee, chairman, president and CEO of BFRC, will assume the role of chairman of the board of Morgan Tire.
BFS purchased majority control of Morgan Tire last summer and will assume 100-percent ownership of the company in 2008.
“Larry Morgan is an icon in the tire industry and built MTA to its current position of 549 stores in just over 10 years,” Mr. Magee said in a prepared statement. “We will miss his day-to-day leadership but are pleased he will continue as a member of the MTA board of directors.”
“While my other personal endeavors prevent me from devoting the amount of time and energy necessary to running the company on a daily basis,” Mr. Morgan said, “it continues to be exciting and challenging for me to serve on Morgan Tire's board with others who also have a vested interest in (its) success.”
Mr. Morgan, currently board chairman of the Tire Alliance Groupe, said he wants to assist his son—who is finishing up his college studies—in some possible entrepreneurial interests as well as work with TIA. He is slated to become president of the association in November 2003.
Clearwater-based Morgan Tire operates 549 “Tires Plus” locations in 25 states, employing approximately 6,000 nationwide.
An in-depth interview with Mr. Morgan will appear in the Aug. 5 issue of Tire Business.