MIDLAND, MICH. - Enrique J. Sosa, the leader of Dow Chemical Co.'s North American operations, is leaving the company Oct. 1 to run Amoco Corp.'s $5 billion chemical business. Sosa, 55, has been with Dow 31 years, and his announced departure has shaken the company to its core.
He is a senior vice president, president of Dow North America and a company director. As a director, he is one of six members of Dow's executive committee, which holds the decision-making power between board meetings.
Sosa is one of 13 executives who report directly to William S. Stavropoulos, president of Dow. About 20 executives report to Sosa.
Stavropoulos will assume Sosa's duties until a replacement is found.
Sosa will join Amoco at its Chicago headquarters.
He has family in the Chicago area, and he and Dow said his move represents a renewal of his career that will permit him to live closer to his children and grandchildren.
At Amoco, Sosa will succeed James E. Fligg as executive vice president for the chemical sector.
Fligg, 59, has been promoted to the new position of senior executive vice president for strategic planning and international business development.
He will assume most of the duties of Amoco's vice chairman, Lawrason D. Thomas, who retires Jan. 1. Both Fligg and Sosa will report directly to H. Laurance Fuller, chairman and chief executive officer of Amoco.
Executives at Sosa's level typically stay with Dow until the end of their careers.
Another Dow executive said that only one other 30-year veteran of the company quit previously, and that was so long ago that hardly any one recalls the event.
Besides being a top-level exec-utive, Sosa became well-known and enormously popular with employees throughout Dow for his efforts in recent years in traveling to facilities to explain the reasons for the company's downsizing.
Sosa, who holds bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in agriculture from the University of Florida, joined Dow as a researcher in bio-products at its Midland headquarters in 1964.
He transferred to Dow Latin America in 1966, and later became agricultural products district sales manager for Colombia in 1970.
He was appointed sales manager for plastics in Colombia in 1971, became general manager for the Venezuela region in 1974 and for the Mexico region three years later.
In 1979, he returned to Midland as business manager for plastics, then, a year later, became marketing director for plastics.
In 1982, Sosa became general manager of Dow Brazil in SÃo Paulo before being promoted to president of that unit in 1984. The following year he again returned to Midland, this time to assume some key chemicals-related jobs.
Dow in 1990 appointed him a group vice president and director of the corporate product department. Later that year, he was elected to the board of directors.
He became a senior vice president of Dow in 1991, and was named president of Dow North America in 1993.
Sosa's departure is the latest in a series of changes within Dow's top management.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frank Popoff, 59, announced at the company's annual meeting in May that he will retire as CEO in November. While he will remain chairman, Popoff's CEO duties will be given to Stavropoulos, 56.
Also, Enrique Falla, 56, an executive vice president and Dow's chief financial officer, announced at the annual meeting that he will give up his management responsibilities in November while remaining on the board of directors.
Dow has not named Falla's replacement.