Thomas Waltermire, president and chief executive officer of PolyOne Corp., North America's largest compounder, has stepped down.
Waltermire, 55, had led the Avon Lake, Ohio-based firm since September 2000, shortly after its formation through a merger of Geon Co. and M.A. Hanna Co. Waltermire had joined Geon forerunner BFGoodrich Inc. as a financial analyst in 1974.
``As the company enters the next phase of its strategic evolution, the board and I agree that the time is right for new leadership,'' Waltermire said in an Oct. 7 news release. ``I take pride in my accomplishments ... and I wish my colleagues the best of luck in the future.''
The move was effective immediately. Former Geon chief William Patient, now serving as nonexecutive chairman of PolyOne's board of directors, has replaced Waltermire on an interim basis.
In the release, PolyOne officials said the firm has contracted with Russell Reynolds Associates, a global executive search firm, to find a replacement for Waltermire. PolyOne hopes to have that process completed by early 2006.
PolyOne has struggled almost since its inception because of slowdowns in manufacturing and in the overall economy. Since 2000, the firm has lost about 30 percent of its annual sales while closing more than 20 plants and cutting more than 1,300 jobs.
In its first five years of operation, PolyOne has lost almost $280 million, with annual sales falling from $3.1 billion in 2000 to $2.2 billion last year. PolyOne also has sold its rubber compounding and engineered films businesses, which had combined annual sales of about $475 million.
The firm's struggles led to Patient's return in late 2003. Patient, now 71, had retired from Geon in 1999.
PolyOne's challenges have been reflected in its per-share stock price. It debuted at around $12 in 2000, but slumped under $4 in early 2003 and remained under $6 in early trading Oct. 7. Its peak came in mid-2002, when it hit $13 per share, and had been as high as $10 earlier this year.
In an August 2003 interview with Plastics News, Waltermire said decreased manufacturing demand and higher raw material prices were the major factors affecting PolyOne's performance.
The timing of Waltermire's decision was a bit surprising, according to industry consultant William Ridenour, since PolyOne's performance seemed to be improving. The firm posted first-half sales of $1.2 billion and profit of $45 million, but warned that third-quarter results would be below previous estimates.
Waltermire ``is leaving with a track record of some real accomplishments in selling off noncore businesses and restructuring the management team,'' said Ridenour, president of Polymer Transaction Advisors Inc. in Newbury, Ohio.
``The timing of the [Geon-Hanna] merger was really bad, since the Fed started raising rates and the country entered a recession that affected the entire plastics industry,'' Ridenour added. ``But that was a dip that most observers had not foreseen.''
Ridenour said he expects PolyOne to go outside the company to find its new chief, since ``there's no heir apparent'' inside the firm.