AKRON — Just who might become the next chairman, CEO and president of North America's largest tire manufacturer?
While that remains unclear, the answer might come sooner than the industry anticipates.
Richard Kramer, who announced his retirement from Goodyear Nov. 15 after 14 years leading the company, said to consider the timeline for naming his replacement in terms of months, not years.
Goodyear's board of directors has retained a "leading executive search firm" to conduct a search of candidates, both internal and external, Kramer said. He and the board have spoken numerous times with a search firm over the last few months, prior to announcing the impending vacancy publicly.
"So that process is moving forward, " Kramer said during a conference call with analysts, while detailing the company's "Goodyear Forward" reorganization plan.
"The board and myself, we're all committed to identifying the right successor for this role," he said. "And I will tell you, it's a thoughtful, comprehensive and timely process."
Kramer, who turned 60 on Oct. 30, two months after Goodyear celebrated its 125th anniversary, said all parties are focused on getting a new CEO in place in a timely fashion.
"I think the team's done a really great job of getting to where we are today. And I would say the timeline has not at all diminished the detail or the focus that we as a team, including (Goodyear CFO) Christina (Zamarro) — who has been integral in this plan — have put into this."
He said the plan includes several from within the organization who have "specific metrics timelines to deliver the plans, their programs that make up this plan. We have a lot of board oversight that will continue as we drive this forward."
Kramer will retire from his position in 2024 after 24 years with the company, according to a Goodyear news release.
Laurette Koellner, independent lead director of Goodyear's board, said the group "is committed to a thorough, comprehensive and timely search to identify a proven leader with the skills and expertise to further advance the Goodyear Forward plan."
If history repeats itself, the new leader of Goodyear will come from within.
Kramer had been with Goodyear for a decade and was chief operating officer before his promotion. He had spent the previous three years as head of the company's North American tire business unit, focusing on customers, new product and process innovation.
Prior to that, he spent three years as executive vice president and chief financial officer. He joined Goodyear as vice president of corporate finance in 2000, after spending 13 years with PricewaterhouseCoopers International Ltd., where he served in a variety of roles in the U.S. and Europe, ultimately as partner.
Kramer succeeded Robert Keegan, who was named Goodyear chairman, CEO and president in 2003. Keegan had joined Goodyear in 2000 after serving as an executive vice president at Eastman Kodak Co.
"Mentoring and working side-by-side with Rich for more than nine years, I've witnessed his strong professional growth whether it be his critical role in creating our strategy, his creation of a world class financial team as CFO, or his team building, leadership and motivational abilities in leading North American Tire through one of the most difficult periods in history," Keegan said at the time.
"Rich brings to the table a deep knowledge of Goodyear, our global markets, manufacturing, finance and technology, which will lead Goodyear to the next level. Our company will be in good hands," Keegan said then.
According to Goodyear, the company registered its five highest years of annual segment operating income in company history during Kramer's tenure. The company credits him for transforming the business to fully fund and de-risk its pension plans, reduce costs, streamline manufacturing and invest for growth.
Kramer might be most remembered for Goodyear's 2021 acquisition of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., a $2.5 billion cash-and-stock purchase that combined the world's No. 3 tire maker with the No. 13 tire maker.
He called it a "privilege" to lead the "iconic" U.S. tire maker.
"As we embark on our next stage of growth, I am confident that our Goodyear Forward plan will build an even stronger foundation for the next generation of leadership to continue paving the way for Goodyear's enduring success. I am fully engaged in driving the successful execution of the plan and, with the support and involvement of the board, will assist with the transition when my successor is identified."
Koellner, the lead director of the board, lauded Karmer for his leadership and contributions.
"He successfully navigated Goodyear through a number of challenging cycles, including the aftermath of the financial crisis and the global pandemic," Koellner said in a statement.
"Throughout his tenure, Rich has led the company with a clear long-term vision that positioned Goodyear as a leader at the forefront of the industry, with unmatched competitive advantages."