TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. — The chief operating officer of Becker Group, the supplier that created the interior for the Plymouth Prowler, has resigned after less than 18 months on the job.
Robert Albert, 52, said he left for personal reasons and disputes over strategy with Charles Becker, the company's chief executive officer and owner. At least three other high-ranking executives have left Becker Group this year.
The turmoil illustrates the challenges that can face small, family-owned suppliers as they attempt to expand into global enterprises. Becker began as a small tool and die shop.
Last year, Becker tripled in size by acquiring Happich Fibrit GmbH, Europe's second largest interior supplier.
Albert came from Dow Automotive to lead Becker's global charge. He lured executives from LTV Corp., Chrysler Corp. and other companies to join him.
Becker Group of Sterling Heights, Mich., had $1.4 billion in sales last year, most of it overseas. It ranked sixth on Plastics News' mid-April list of North American injection molders, with related 1996 sales of $411 million. At the time, the firm reported operating 15 injection molding plants and 208 presses in North America.
The company has positioned itself as a so-called systems integrator. Such firms play central roles in an industry transition that has seen suppliers, instead of automakers, coordinate the work of other suppliers in creating an entire system of parts. Becker worked with eight other suppliers in providing the interior for Chrysler Corp.'s new hot-rod, the Prowler.
``I'm going to take a breather,'' said Albert, who was reached at an industry conference in Traverse City.
He said he resigned July 28.
``For the past 18 months, I've been going back and forth to Europe, Brazil and Asia. I'm going to relax for a while and figure out what I want to do.''
Albert has been replaced by Gary Benninger, a former vice president of engineering at Magna International Inc. A spokesman for Becker Group had no comment on the changes. According to industry sources, other Becker departures include:
Gordon Heidacker, vice president of purchasing.
Joe Reed, executive vice president of applications development.
Bill Armbruster, chief financial officer.
Becker watchers say Charles Becker was reluctant to leave daily management decisions to his managers and often involved himself in relatively minor issues.