Less than a year after its creation, Sabic Innovative Plastics has a new boss.
Charlie Crew, the executive who helped find a buyer for the former GE Plastics business, now is the unit's president and chief executive officer.
He replaces Brian Gladden, who left the Pittsfield, Mass.-based engineering plastics leader to join computer giant Dell Inc. in Round Rock, Texas, as chief financial officer.
Gladden, 43, had been with GE Plastics for 18 years when that business was acquired for $11.6 billion by Saudi Basic Industries Corp. of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. That deal was announced in late May 2007 and became official Aug. 31. The business a longtime unit of General Electric Co. was renamed Sabic Innovative Plastics.
Leaving Sabic IP ``was the toughest decision I've ever had to make,'' Gladden said in a May 20 telephone interview. ``But I looked at the magnitude of the opportunity at Dell and the chance to work with Michael Dell and the rest of the management team.
``Part of what made the decision easier was that I know there's a great management team at Sabic,'' he added. ``I think the world of the business and of Sabic ownership. They've been nothing but supportive.''
Crew, 56, joined GE Plastics in 1977 and most recently had served as vice president and general manager of Sabic IP's global ventures business. He also has led the firm's ABS resin and LNP Engineering Plastics businesses. In a May 19 news release, Mohamed Al-Mady, Sabic vice chairman and chief executive officer, described Crew as ``a proven, influential leader'' who ``is well-known throughout the industry.''
In a May 20 telephone interview, Crew said he's confident about taking the reins because of his extensive experience with the firm.
``I've probably worked with 60-65 percent of our customers first-hand, and I've got experience all over the world,'' he said. ``In the global ventures area, I've been very involved in our collective strategy of expanding our footprint in the engineering thermoplastic area. It's an ongoing, living, breathing thing that I believe in.''
Crew found a different perspective on the business when in late 2006 he was tasked by General Electric Co. Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt with finding a buyer for GE Plastics. At the time, Crew relinquished day-to-day oversight of GE Plastics' ABS business and worked on the sale full-time.
``You think you know a business, but when you go through the scrutiny of a sale, you learn so much more,'' he said. Gladden also worked with Crew on the search, which involved several potential buyers before Sabic's offer was accepted.
Crew now will steer Sabic IP into a market where low growth rates in North America and Western Europe are balanced by strong activity in Asia and Latin America.
``Asia continues to be an emerging market, and we're very well-positioned there,'' he said. ``In North America, automotive and building are obvious challenges for us, but we're seeing opportunities in the medical market and in off-highway vehicles. And even in the building market, we're finding more penetration by coming up with lower-cost systems.''
Crew added that Sabic IP remains committed to its structured products unit, which includes downstream sheet and film operations. The unit ranked 28th among North American film and sheet makers, according to a recent Plastics News ranking, with estimated annual sales of $275 million.
Sheet and film ``is a good way of utilizing our product portfolio,'' Crew said. ``It's a good route to market for us.''
Greg Smith, an engineering plastics analyst with Resin Technology Inc. in Fort Worth, Texas, worked with Crew at GE Plastics in the late 1990s. Smith said that Crew ``has extensive commercial knowledge and is very well-respected both within the company and externally.''
``As a customer, I would see no reason to be concerned at all,'' Smith added. ``Charlie knows the resins and the markets and is very capable of handling the business.''
Gladden also said Crew was well-suited for the job, and pointed out that at Dell, he's now a huge Sabic IP customer.
``I've already told Charlie that Dell needs a better share position with Sabic,'' Gladden said, joking.