Goodyear is scouting for a new chief financial officer to replace Richard Kramer, who at age 43 has taken over as president of its North American Tire (NAT) unit.
Chances are good the new CFO will come from outside the company, be relatively young and sport a stellar resume.
Those attributes would fit the mold for many of the executive hires during the last three years at the Akron-based tire maker. Goodyear over that time has replaced occupants in 24 of the 25 top positions that Chairman, President and CEO Robert Keegan has deemed important to moving the company forward.
``Our focus has been to put the right leadership in place,'' Goodyear spokesman Keith Price said.
Mr. Keegan, who joined Goodyear in 2000 from Eastman Kodak Co., has spearheaded an effort to fill the executive ranks with bright talent hailing from some of America's biggest corporations, including Ford Motor Co., auto supplier Visteon Corp. and Procter & Gamble Co.
Saul Ludwig, an equity research analyst with KeyBanc Capital Markets of Cleveland, said because of the management personnel Mr. Keegan has put in place, Goodyear ``does have a deep bench.''
``He's hired a lot of good people,'' Mr. Ludwig said. ``However, it works the other way. When you have good people, you run the risk of losing them to other companies.''
As two examples of the latter twist, Mr. Ludwig cited Jonathan Rich, who at 46 joined Goodyear in 2000 after an 18-year career at General Electric Co., and Michael Roney, former president of Goodyear's European Union business, who resigned in September 2005 to become CEO of British distributor Bunzl P.L.C. Mr. Rich was named president of North American Tire in 2002.
Goodyear announced in March that Mr. Rich, now 51, was leaving to pursue another career opportunity, potentially as a CEO at another company. As of May 17, a new position for Mr. Rich has not been announced.
His departure meant two other young guns who joined Goodyear's management ranks over the last five years moved up in the executive suite.
Specifically, Goodyear named Darren Wells, 41, its new senior vice president of finance and strategy, and 36-year-old Damon Audia as vice president and treasurer. Mr. Wells in August 2002 came to Goodyear from Visteon to assume the treasurer's post and was promoted to the added position of senior vice president, business development in 2005.
Mr. Audia is an even fresher face, coming to Goodyear in December 2004 as assistant treasurer, capital markets, after a six-year stint at auto supplier Delphi Corp.
The average age of Messrs. Kramer, Wells and Audia is 40. Mr. Ludwig said it's unmistakable that the face of 109-year-old Goodyear-as in much of corporate America-is becoming younger. That wasn't the case 30 or 40 years ago, though.
``When you went to Goodyear before, you were usually there for life,'' Mr. Ludwig said.
Inflating with new life
Mr. Price said it's a coincidence that some of the firm's leaders are young.
Rather, he said, Goodyear has looked at a range of candidates for the positions, from both inside and outside the company, in order to find the right officers and managers to assist Goodyear in meeting its strategic goal of refocusing on its core tire business.
The tire maker is still rebounding from a three-month strike by the United Steelworkers (USW) at NAT that began last October. As a result of that strike-settled in December-the company posted a net loss of $358 million on sales of $5 billion in last year's fourth quarter and a net loss of $174 million in the first quarter of 2007.
Mr. Keegan said in April that the company is striving to cut overall costs by as much as $2 billion by 2009. It also plans to source more raw materials and equipment from China in the name of efficiency.
Goodyear has closed some production plants to reduce excess capacity-a prime reason behind last year's USW strike, when 14,000 U.S. workers walked off the line-as well as sell off other non-core businesses. In March, Goodyear announced the sale of its Engineered Products division for $1.48 billion.
Goodyear's approach to revamping its management doesn't represent the wholesale change seen when many companies clean house. Rather, Mr. Ludwig said, it's an ``orderly'' and systematic plan for its leadership structure that should result in continued improved performance by the company.
One key position in Akron wasn't filled. When Cathy Fischer, chief marketing officer, departed more than two years ago to join Strongsville, Ohio-based ICI Paints North America, Goodyear chose instead to empower each individual tire business with a bigger marketing role.