After four years of outstanding performance, McCormick & Co. Inc. began the shift to new leadership today by selecting a new chief executive and chief operating officer.
Bailey A. Thomas, the No. 2 man at the giant spice and food company, was tapped as the new chief executive officer at McCormick's annual meeting, held this morning at the Hunt Valley Inn.
Mr. Thomas succeeds Charles P. "Buzz" McCormick Jr., who has held that post for five years.
The Sparks-based company also named H. Eugene Blattman executive vice president and chief operating officer, taking the spot vacated by Mr. Thomas.
Mr. McCormick, 63, will retain the title of chairman until the end of the year, when he will retire and pass the title to Mr. Thomas.
The change in leadership comes as little surprise, having been planned since the last annual meeting.
In fact, it is practically a carbon copy of the transition five years ago when Mr. McCormick took over as chief executive from Harry K. Wells.
Mr. Thomas, 61, joined McCormick in 1961 as an administrative assistant to the general manager of the bulk and institutional division.
He moved up through the hierarchy, becoming vice president of food service and industrial groups in 1986. He has been a member of the board of directors since 1977.
Mr. Blattman, 56, has worked for a variety of food companies and was president and chief executive of Gentry Foods Corp. when a McCormick subsidiary bought it in 1987. He has been vice president of the flavor and agribusiness division and a member of the board since last year.
In the four years since Mr. McCormick and Mr. Thomas took the reins of McCormick, the value of its stock has increased at a compound rate of more than 48 percent annually while earnings per share have risen to 98 cents in 1991 from 32 cents in 1987.
Key to this success was the sale in 1989 of McCormick's large real estate holdings, which had been a drag on the balance sheet,depressing the company's stock price.
The sale also came before the dramatic downturn in the commercial real estate business.
In his speech to stockholders today, Mr. Thomas outlined a new McCormick effort called "Home Cooking From Around the World," which will introduce successful McCormick products from one market to other regions.
In England, for instance, the company is offering ready-to-use cooking sauces for Chicago-style spareribs, authentic curries from India, Mexican chili con carne and Thai and Chinese sauces.
McCormick also will test-market some of these products in the United States, Mr. Thomas said.
"It's quick and it's easy for consumers to travel in good taste from country-to-country around the world without ever leaving their own kitchens," he said.