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Column: Atlanta companies mark milestones, look to future at annual meetings

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on April 27, 2018

Two legacy Atlanta companies will be marking similar milestones this year.

Genuine Parts Co. and Rollins Inc. are both celebrating 50 years on the New York Stock Exchange. GPC will ring the closing bell on June 5, and Rollins will ring the closing bell on Aug. 10.

GPC also is celebrating its 90th anniversary as a company – a moment that was recognized at its 70th annual shareholders’ meeting on April 23.

“We’ve been operating 70 years as a public company,” Paul Donahue, GPC’s president and CEO, told shareholders.

On April 26, the company and the Georgia Historical Society were to dedicate a historical marker to commemorate the founding of the company in 1928. It is part of the Historical Society’s Georgia Business History Initiative .

The historical marker reads:

Genuine Parts Company

In 1928, Carlyle Fraser purchased the Motor Parts Depot in Atlanta, Georgia for $40,000, and renamed the parts store Genuine Parts Company (GPC). The original store had annual sales of just $75,000, and six employees. Over the years, GPC, in relationship with the NAPA brand, grew rapidly as independent garages for car repair emerged to meet the needs of the nation’s growing number of automobiles. GPC has continued to grow into an international service organization through the acquisition of companies in the automotive, industrial, and business products distribution industries. The Company has paid a cash dividend to shareholders every year since going public in 1948. At its 90th anniversary in 2018, GPC served hundreds of thousands of customers from more than 3,100 operations and had approximately 48,000 employees in North America, Australasia, and Europe.

Jimmy Williams Russ Hardin

Jimmy Williams and Russ Hardin at Genuine Parts 2018 annual meeting (Photo by Maria Saporta0

GPC has always been respectful of its history. All of its past CEOs who are still living continue to be closely connected to the company. There is Wilton Looney, who served as CEO from 1961 to 1990. He was succeeded by Larry Prince, who also continues to serve on GPC’s “emerti” board.

And Tom Gallagher, who retired as CEO in May 2016, continues to serve as GPC’s board chairman. Looney, however, did not attend the GPC annual meeting.

At the end of the 2017 annual meeting, Looney fell and his mobility has been restricted ever since. That means Looney was unable to give his annual pep talk to GPC executives and shareholders. Looney turned 99 on April 18.

SunTrust’s strong bench

Atlanta-based SunTrust is laying the foundation for its future leaders.

The bank’s CEO, Bill Rogers, is only 60 and is expected to serve for at least five more years. At the bank’s annual meeting on April 24, Rogers acknowledged that his senior leadership team is being positioned for the future.

“It’s a strong bench,” Rogers said.

A successor likely will be selected from a group of three executives:

  • Mark A. Chancy, vice chairman and co-chief operating officer;
  • Hugh “Beau” S. Cummins III, co-chief operating officer; and
  • Allison Dukes, who became SunTrust’s chief financial officer on March 31.
Allison Dukes Aleem Gillani

SunTrust’s Aleem Gillani and Allison Dukes at the bank’s annual meeting on April 24 (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Dukes, the first female CFO in the bank’s history, has been on a management fast track. She has been promoted five times since 2011. She succeeds Aleem Gillani, who has served as the bank’s CFO since April 2011. Rogers said Gillani decided to retire, and he will be leaving the bank in a couple of weeks.

“Welcome to your new role, Allison,” said Rogers, who also thanked Gillani for his service to the bank. Rogers then gave shareholders an update on the bank’s financial standing, saying, “2017 was a really good year for SunTrust.” Rogers added that he expects the bank to have similar strong business results during 2018.

Rogers then welcomed SunTrust’s newest board member, Steven Vorhees, president and CEO of Atlanta-based WestRock Co.

Cousins annual meeting

Cousins Properties Inc. held its annual meeting April 24 at its new headquarters in the 3344 Peachtree Road building in the heart of Buckhead, having moved from downtown’s 191 Peachtree St. last June. Larry Gellerstedt, CEO since 2009, said the company has invested in the most strategic markets in the country.

“Our strategy is to be in the best urban submarkets with the best office buildings,” Gellerstedt said. The company owns about 20 percent of the Uptown Charlotte, N.C., submarket, about 20 percent of the Buckhead sub-market, 20 percent of downtown Austin, Texas, as well as significant holdings in Tempe, Ariz., and Tampa, Fla. – all Sun Belt cities.

Gellerstedt said that 80 percent of Cousins’ investments are in urban areas. It has $490 million worth of projects in the development pipeline, and Gellerstedt said all those developments are more than 99 percent leased.

“I couldn’t be more optimistic about where the company sits,” Gellerstedt told shareholders.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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