Black & Decker losing officers

Company's success with training makes executives attractive


March 14, 2000|By Kristine Henry | Kristine Henry,SUN STAFF

Black & Decker Corp. is known for aggressively recruiting promising college graduates and helping in their ascension through the company ranks. Unfortunately for the Towson-based toolmaker, other companies have noticed their success.

The company, which saw its chief financial officer resign in January, has lost two more top executives.

David A. Klatt Jr., vice president of North American consumer power tools, and J. Patrick Robinson, vice president for worldwide power tools, are leaving to join a technology start-up company.

Klatt and Robinson will be chief executive officer and chief financial officer, respectively, at AirClic Inc. in Pennsylvania.

Their resignations, which occurred Friday, follow that of Black & Decker's chief financial officer, Thomas Schoewe. He left this year to become CFO of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

"There seem to be a rash of unusual opportunities for these people," said Barbara Lucas, Black & Decker's senior vice president for public affairs. "Certainly `dot-com' companies are very alluring with the prospect of going public and merging, and an opportunity like Wal-Mart doesn't come along very often."

She said Black & Decker is dealing with a "double-edged sword" because it is known for generating good managers, but those people are then sought after by other companies.

Klatt, who has a master's in business administration from Georgetown University, joined Black & Decker in 1986. Robinson, whose MBA was earned at Loyola College, has been with the toolmaker since 1982.

"Black & Decker has been great to me; I've had a long, happy career there," said Klatt, 35. "I see this as the next chapter of my life."

He and AirClic are not releasing details about the new venture, other than to say its technology will allow consumers to use devices such as pagers and cellular telephones to buy items they see advertised in print media such as newspapers and magazines.

"I feel I can really build a business here, an honest to goodness business with profits," Klatt said. "That's what got me so excited."

Robinson was traveling abroad yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

Both will remain at Black & Decker through March 24.

Lucas noted that while Black & Decker was losing talent, it had also picked up some along the way with hires such as Paul F. McBride, formerly a division president at General Electric Co.

McBride was hired in April to replace Joseph Galli, who is now president and chief operating officer of Inc.

And Carl C. Liebert, also a former GE executive, was hired in 1998 to head the new Six Sigma program, Lucas said. The cost-cutting program saved the company $67 million last year.

Lucas said Black & Decker was sorry to see Klatt and Robinson leave, but "we are pretty well steeped in executive talent."

Janney Montgomery Scott LLC analyst James Lucas, who is not related to Barbara Lucas, said nothing should be read into the resignations and that Black & Decker will find qualified replacements.

"David got a good opportunity to go to a company as a CEO, and becoming a CEO is probably hard to pass up," he said. "Black & Decker is a company with a deep bench; there's a lot of young talent in the company and I do not expect the positions to be vacant too long."

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