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Column: Wilton Looney a force at Genuine Parts, Rollins companies

By Maria Saporta
Friday, April 27, 2012

A special person was missing from four of Atlanta’s big public company annual meetings on April 23 and April 24 — Wilton Looney.

The first meeting on April 23 was at Genuine Parts — a company where Looney served as CEO from 1961 to 1990. Looney, 92, who remains as a director emeritus, is only one of four CEOs who has led the company since its founding in 1928.

Looney missed the meeting to remain with his wife, who was ill, Genuine Parts CEO Thomas Gallagher told shareholders. It was only the second time in 55 years that he’s missed a meeting. “As many of you know, he called with some guidance for me, which I hope to pay attention to,” Gallagher told attendees.

A tradition at Genuine Parts’ annual meeting is when Looney stands up to comment on the company’s results and give encouragement to its leadership team.

So before the meeting, Looney also called Larry Prince, who had succeeded him as CEO, with this message: “It would be a nice thing if someone got up and thanked you guys for a job well done.”

What Looney was really doing was telling Prince to speak at the annual meeting. “We always do what he asks us to do, and he’s always right,” said Prince, who began channeling Looney. “Thank you guys for so much good work, and we wish you continued success.”

The next day, Rollins Inc., Marine Products Corp. and RPC Inc., held their annual meetings back-to-back. The ownership and board representation of those companies are nearly identical — all are majority owned by the Rollins family — and Looney serves on the boards of all three.

At the Rollins meeting, Chairman Randall Rollins introduced the company’s directors.

‘Normally I call on Wilton Looney at this time,” Rollins said. “This is the first time in 38 years that Wilton Looney is not here.”

Looney has been one of metro Atlanta’s quiet leaders and continues to have a significant impact as a trustee of the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation.

Incidentally, at 92, Looney is the oldest director of the three Rollins-related companies. The youngest is Thomas Lawley, dean of Emory University School of Medicine, who is 65.

CCE board change

Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc. has gained national recognition for having four women on its 12-member board. But at its annual meeting April 24, one of those women directors, Donna James, did not stand for re-election.

James, president of the Lardon & Associates consulting firm, had been on the board since 2005.

“Donna doesn’t like international travel,” John Brock, CEO of CCE, said after the meeting. “We wanted her to stay.”

CCE, which continues to be based in Atlanta, has 100 percent of its operations in Western Europe, so it is inevitable that board members have to travel to the major markets where it does business — Great Britain, France, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Belgium.

Brock implied that CCE will continue to lead in having strong diversity on its board. “We will add a 12th director, and there’s a reasonable chance it will be a female,” he said.

By the way, one shareholder asked Brock if the company was going to keep its headquarters in Atlanta. When CCE sold its U.S. bottling operations to The Coca-Cola Co., the decision at the time was to keep CCE’s headquarters in Atlanta.

“We thought it was best to be a U.S.-domiciled company. We also like being traded on the New York Stock Exchange,” Brock said. “For the reasonable future, we will remain a U.S.-domiciled company.”

Morea joins SunTrust board

Speaking of women … SunTrust Banks Inc. is back to having two women directors.

At the Atlanta-based bank’s annual meeting on April 23, Donna Morea was elected to the board. According to the company’s proxy, Morea is “a nationally recognized executive in IT professional services management” with more than 30 years’ experience. She joins Kyle Precht Legg, former CEO of Legg Mason Capital Management, on the SunTrust board.

But at the same time, the bank is down to only one African-American director — Phail Wynn, vice president for regional affairs for Duke University.

Two directors retired at the bank’s 2012 annual meeting, including Frank Royal, an African-American who is a doctor from Richmond, Va. The other retiring director was J. Hicks Lanier, chairman and CEO of Oxford Industries Inc.

Adams joins GWCC board

Speaking of African-Americans…the Georgia World Congress Center Authority board now has a new African-American member — Steve Adams.

The GWCC Authority has not had an African-American for years.

Adams is president and CEO of Southeastrans Inc., an Atlanta-based transportation management company founded in 200 that contracts with state and local agencies to manage government-sponsored transportation programs. Southeastrans currently coordinates about three million non-emergency medical trips annually under contracts with Georgia, Tennessee and Washington, D.C.

Adams said he was delighted to be joining the “well-functioning” board. “I’m excited that the governor put me on the board,” he said.

There was no African-American on GWCC’s board for most of the administration of former Gov. Sonny Perdue. GWCC Authority chairman Tim Lowe said Gov. Nathan Deal should be commended for the appointment.

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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