A changing of the guard will take place at North American resin makers Nova Chemicals Corp. and at Eastman Chemical Co. in the first half of 2009.
Jeff Lipton will retire May 1 as chief executive officer of Nova, the Pittsburgh-based maker of polyethylene, polystyrene and specialty styrenics. He will be replaced by Christopher Pappas, who currently serves as the firm's president and chief operating officer.
Lipton, age 66, joined Nova in 1994 after a 28-year career with DuPont Co. He became Nova's president and CEO in 1998. Pappas, 53, has been with Nova since 2000. He previously worked 18 years for Dow Chemical Co.
``Despite today's economic uncertainties, I remain very optimistic about the company's prospects,'' Lipton said in a Dec. 8 news release. ``I am confident that Chris will provide outstanding shareholder-oriented leadership to a great team.''
In recent years, Nova's polyethylene and ethylene business has benefited from access to low-priced feedstocks from western Canada, but the firm's PS-related unit has struggled. In 2007, Nova's North American PS/styrene monomer business was placed into a joint venture with Ineos Group.
Lipton and other Nova executives also developed a contrarian reputation when debating the viability of the North American resin field.
``Associated with the idea that North American producers will not be able to compete globally, is the idea that North America will become a net importer of polyethylene,'' Lipton said at an investment conference in New York in May 2007. ``We strongly disagree that that is a likely probability. In fact, we think that the probability for that happening is faint.''
Nova enjoyed a banner year in 2007, lifting sales 3 percent to $6.7 billion and posting a $350 million profit after losing $700 million in 2006. In the first nine months of 2008, Nova's sales were up 27 percent vs. the year-ago period to $6.2 billion, but profit fell 25 percent to $166 million.
At PET maker Eastman, James Rogers will replace J. Brian Ferguson as president and chief executive officer on May 7. Rogers, 57, has been with the Kingsport, Tenn.-based company since 1999, most recently serving as its president and head of its chemicals and fibers business.
Ferguson, 54, had served as Eastman's chairman and CEO since 2002. He joined Eastman in 1977 and will serve as executive chairman of the firm's board through 2010.
``This is the right time to pass the torch to Jim and our talented team of senior executives,'' Ferguson said in a Dec. 8 news release. ``The company is well positioned to endure the difficult economic situation because of previous actions we've taken.''
In the same release, Rogers said that he ``looks forward to building on the success the company has achieved under Brian's leadership.''
Eastman has exited a number of foreign PET markets in recent years in order to focus on specialty products such as Tritan-brand copolyester. The firm remains one of North America's largest PET suppliers.
Since 2006, Eastman also has opened and expanded a new PET plant in Columbia, S.C., that uses the firm's patented Integrex-brand technology.
Integrex eliminates solid-stating from PET production, which reduces the levels of energy, labor and equipment needed to make PET, according to Eastman.
When Integrex was introduced in 2004, Ferguson said the technology showed ``that Eastman has the ability to reach reinvestment economics in a changing world.''
A former PET industry executive said he was a bit surprised by Ferguson's departure from Eastman, but added that he believes the move is Ferguson's own decision and not that of Eastman's board.
Eastman posted sales of $6.8 billion and profit of almost $300 million in 2007. The firm already had registered a profit of $350 million in the first nine months of 2008, and nine-month sales of $5.4 billion were ahead of last year's pace.