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Published on January 19, 2004

Lampe has made a huge difference

Whenever a CEO of a major tire manufacturer decides to retire in his prime to spend time with his family and enjoy the fun things in life, you might think something else is behind the decision.

But not when it comes to John Lampe, chairman, CEO and president of Bridgestone Americas Holding Inc. (BSAH).

A hallmark that has made Mr. Lampe one of the most re-spected, admired and liked leaders in the tire industry is that he tells it like it is.

So when he says at age 56 that he wants ``to smell the roses while I still have the health to do so,'' you can take him at his word. There's no hidden agenda.

Mr. Lampe's surprising decision to step down March 31 as head of BSAH is a blow to the company and to the tire industry.

In an era when many tire maker CEOs have come from other industries, Mr. Lampe is a throwback.

He has spent his entire working career at Firestone and Bridgestone/Firestone, rising to the top job more than three years ago when the company needed him most-during the height of the turmoil created by the recall of millions of Firestone ATX and Wilderness AT P-metric light truck radials.

This was not a job he agreed to lightly, and he did so against the advice of his family and others who were concerned about the stress it would place on him.

But Mr. Lampe chose to follow his heart and took the position because of his love for the company and his respect for its employees, while also placing a time limit on his tenure so that he could also do right by his family.

Well-liked, highly credible and trusted by both employees and tire dealers, Mr. Lampe provided the steady and sound leadership the tire maker needed to regain its footing in the highly competitive U.S. tire market.

He was a strong and calming influence in the firestorm surrounding the tire recalls, deftly handling testimony before Congress and meeting head-on the criticisms of Ford Motor Co.'s then-CEO Jacques Nasser.

His sincerity was evident in the ``Making It Right'' advertising campaign. It was his vision, and it set the tone for how the company would respond to the crisis.

And he made many tough business decisions-such as closing the Decatur, Ill., tire plant and ending the 100-year business relationship with Ford in the U.S.-that were right for the company but agonizingly difficult for him because of their impact on people's lives.

While his tenure at the helm of Bridgestone Americas has been brief, his impact on the company and its 50,000 employees has been huge.

We wish him well in retirement and congratulate him on a job well done.

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