Column: Mark Ketchum leaving Newell-Rubbermaid set for success

By Maria Saporta
Friday, May 13, 2011

Newell Rubbermaid Inc.’s annual meeting May 10 marked the last one for Mark Ketchum as CEO.

In his final report to shareholders as CEO, Ketchum spoke of the “new” Newell Rubbermaid. Under his tenure, the company has been restructured into three distinct product lines.

Ketchum said the company is now on a sustainable footing to have the “trifecta” of success: sales growth; gross margins nearing 40 percent; and increased earnings per share.

The company is still on track to name its next CEO either later this month or in June, according to Michael Cowhig, Newell Rubbermaid’s non-executive chairman.

“Thanks to Mark and his team, the company is much stronger now than it was five years ago,” Cowhig told shareholders.

Ketchum came out of retirement to become Newell Rubbermaid’s CEO in October 2005. The Fortune 500 company had just relocated its corporate headquarters from Illinois to Sandy Springs a year earlier.

Cowhig said the board is on track to meet its May/June target to have picked a new CEO.

“It’s the board’s fiduciary responsibility to do a robust search,” he said. “Our objective is to find the best CEO. We are pretty far along in the process.”

Both external and internal candidates are being considered, Cowhig said.

Internally, three candidates are thought to be in the running — all executive who have been understudies and mentees of Ketchum. They are Jay Gould, group president of the home and family division; Penny McIntyre, group president of the office products division; and Bill Burke, group president of the tools, hardware and commercial products division.

(If the proxy is an indicator, the second-highest-paid executive of the company is McIntyre. Her total compensation was $2.29 million compared to Ketchum’s $11.9 million; Burke’s $2.26 million and Gould’s $2.04 million).

In a somewhat rare occurrence, the one shareholder proposal passed despite the board urging a “no” vote. The proposal called for electing all the directors every year rather than having staggered terms.

Once a new CEO is named, Ketchum will remain on the board until the 2012 annual meeting.

Open Hand opens hands

Open Hand, the largest nonprofit provider of home delivered nutrition services in the nation, is holding open its hands for donations to complete its $4.2 million by June 30.

It has until that date to raise another $400,000 so it can be awarded a $1 million grant from the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, part of the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation family of foundations. The Whitehead commitment was made in 2010.

The organization plans to expand its facility near Monroe Drive and Buford Highway from 12,000 square feet to 29,000 square feet in order to meet a growing demand for its services to deliver meals to those in need. It hopes to break ground on its expansion in August.

Open Hand also exemplifies a new trend among nonprofits — to develop ways to make money to subsidize their charitable operations.

“We have created a hybrid business that’s part nonprofit and part for-profit,” said Stephen Woods, who has been Open Hand’s executive director for 22 years. “Our social enterprise venture is Good Measure Meals. It’s relying on our core competencies.”

The for-profit arm of Open Hand sells and delivers gourmet nutritional meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner — to those who don’t have the time or energy to cook at home. Good Measure Meals now is generating about $4 million in annual sales, which helps support Open Hand’s mission.

“It would have been so hard to get through the economic downturn without Good Measure Meals,” said Jacqueline Yeaney, president of Open Hand’s board.

Last year, Open Hand served about 4,500 clients. It has 150 employees, who help prepare and deliver 5,000 meals a day to its clients. It also has between 75 and 100 volunteers helping each day.

GSU honors Massell, Diaz

Friends and longtime associates of former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell and entrepreneur Rene Diaz came to the St. Regis Hotel May 10 to celebrate their induction into Georgia State University’s Business Hall of Fame.

Unlike in other years, both of the 2011 inductees are GSU graduates.

Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition, told those attending the gala that he never thought he would see GSU football or him being inducted into the Robinson School of Business’ Hall of Fame.

“For the former, I am happy; and for the latter I am humbled, honored and deeply touched,” Massell said.

Diaz talked about how his family immigrated from Cuba with only the shirts on their backs and then built their company, Diaz Foods. He told the crowd how much he owes the United States and Georgia for his success.

Cohen to chair CDC Foundation

Gary Cohen, executive vice president of the global medical technology company BD (Becton, Dickinson & Co.), is the new chair of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation board.

Cohen, who has been on the board since 2006, succeeds Phil Jacobs, a former executive of BellSouth Corp., who now has a consulting firm.

“Gary’s keen business acuity and passion for global health make him an ideal person to lead our board,” said Charles Stokes, CDC Foundation president and CEO, in the release. “He is a respected and accomplished leader who is committed to giving back to the community.”

In addition to his work on the foundation and with BD, Cohen is a board director of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, the Accordia Global Health Foundation and the Perrigo Co.

He also is chair of the CDC Corporate Roundtable on Global Health Threats and is an adviser to the Clinton Global Initiative.

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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