Michael H. Jordan: a thoughtful visionary

July 01, 1993|By Kim Clark | Kim Clark,Staff Writer

Michael H. Jordan, a highly regarded and soft-spoken executive who combines experience in nuclear engineering with a successful tenure selling snack foods overseas, is expected to look increasingly to the international markets in his new post as chairman and chief executive of Westinghouse Electric Corp.

Anton Brenner, a food industry analyst at UBS Securities in New York who followed Mr. Jordan's career at PepsiCo Inc., described him as "a very good executive" known as a thoughtful visionary.

"He is much more mellow than the average wired Pepsi executive," Mr. Brenner said.

Mr. Jordan retired from Pepsi last year at age 57 because he had filled every job but the top slot, which was held by a man a year younger than he, Mr. Brenner said. "He wasn't going to be chief executive officer," Mr. Brenner said.

Mr. Jordan was best-known for turning around a troubled Frito-Lay Inc. in the mid-1980s and leading an expansion of Pepsi's sales overseas in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

In 1986, as PepsiCo president, Mr. Jordan revived Pepsi's Frito Lay division, which had suffered a sales drop, partly because the company had been pumping out products so fast they couldn't be marketed properly.

Mr. Jordan withdrew products such as "Rumbles" granola nuggets and "Stuffers" cheese-filled snacks. Instead, he concentrated on expanding the company's traditional product line.

He introduced items such as "Cool Ranch Doritos" and low-fat "Chee-Tos." He also bought smaller but popular regional snacks, such as Smartfoods Inc.

As president of PepsiCo Worldwide Foods and chairman of PepsiCo International Food and Beverages, Mr. Jordan oversaw the sales of snacks popular in home countries, such as a dried squid snack in Korea, and, in Greece, a tomato-based, fang-shaped snack called "Draculina."

He also bought big international snack makers, including some of the biggest chip makers in Britain, and a controlling interest in Mexico's largest cookie maker.

Last year, just before leaving Pepsi, he arranged a deal to merge Pepsi's overseas snack operations with those of General Mills Inc. No cash changed hands, and Pepsi kept control of the combined operation, which will have more than $600 million in sales this year.

At a news conference yesterday,Mr. Jordan said he planned to use his international experience to expand Westinghouse's overseas units.

Westinghouse gets about 30 percent of its revenue from international operations, and Mr. Jordan said he wanted to increase that share because the company's best growth opportunities are overseas.

He described himself as a "tire-kicker" who likes to have "dialogues" with co-workers to reach agreements about company plans. Westinghouse is too big for him to manage on a day-to-day basis, he said, explaining that he prefers to "strategize."

Mr. Jordan endorsed the company's restructuring of the past six months -- which includes planned divestitures of Westinghouse's troubled office furniture, electric supply and commercial real estate units.

Mr. Jordan received a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from Yale University, and a master's in engineering from Princeton University. He also holds a certificate in nuclear engineering from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.

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