Top tool executive aims at ex-bosses

Fired by Black & Decker, he'll be CEO of its chief competitor

December 27, 2007|By Mary Moore | Mary Moore,Special to The Sun

Joseph Galli Jr. swears he does not "wake up in the morning, thinking I have to kill Black & Decker."

But he does call it "poetic justice" that he is about to be in a position to at least inflict injury.

Nearly nine years after being fired as head of Black & Decker's power tools division, Galli is expected to be named CEO of the Towson toolmaker's largest competitor, Techtronic Industries Co. Ltd., in early January, according to TTI sources.

Galli, who still lives in Baltimore, has been out of the tool business since leaving Black & Decker and was forbidden by a clause in his contract with a subsequent employer from working in the industry for much of that time. But that restriction expired last month, and TTI has been busy recruiting a number of former Black & Decker executives to work with Galli in his new role.

"The fact that TTI is squared directly up against Black & Decker is poetic justice because I feel like what happened to me was wrong and a lot of other people feel that way, too," Galli said in an interview. "A lot of people have left Black & Decker who didn't think what happened to me was right. Now, everyone smiles and thinks there's a lot of poetic justice. A lot of us might never have left Black & Decker if that hadn't happened to me."

Black & Decker declined to comment for this article.

Galli is currently chief of Techtronic's floor care products division. His new role will put him at the head of all TTI divisions, including power tools.

In the U.S. market, TTI sells Ryobi and Ridgid, both consumer brands sold primarily through Home Depot, and Milwaukee, which is positioned for construction professionals.

TTI also has a multiyear alliance with Craftsman to manufacture hand-held cordless and corded power tools sold through Sears and Kmart. Black & Decker ranked first in the U.S. power tool market in 2006, capturing 25 percent of the market, while TTI was second with 17 percent, said Michael Deneen, analyst with the Cleveland-based Freedonia Group.

In 1999, Galli lost a power struggle with Nolan D. Archibald to become Black & Decker's chief executive and was fired soon after by its board, according to news reports at the time.

Galli says he is not vindictive against either the company or Archibald, but rather motivated by passion he developed for the tool business after 19 years at Black & Decker, where he is credited with developing its line of bumblebee-yellow DeWalt power tools.

"I joined Black & Decker right out of college," said Galli, whose father ran a scrap yard in Pittsburgh. "I had a lot of choices, but I chose Black & Decker. Do I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about tools? I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about new product ideas. I love new product development, especially in power tools."

Galli also sees B&D as vulnerable. The Towson toolmaker sharply cut its fourth-quarter profit outlook last week, underscoring a squeeze put on the $7.5 billion U.S.-based power tool industry - particularly professional brands - by the slowdown in homebuilding and construction.

"It's a great challenge for someone like Joe who wants to get back into the industry to come back into it now, but it's also an exciting time for him to help TTI to gain ground on Black & Decker," Deneen said.

Galli's career took a series of dizzying turns after he left Black & Decker, shifting from e-commerce and back to consumer brands, raising questions about his job skittishness and leadership ability. In 2001, he joined Newell Rubbermaid, where he stayed for four years and took its tool division from $80 million in sales to $1 billion, though he ended up leaving by agreement with the company's board.

Galli said he stayed away from TTI's tool division until a non-compete agreement he signed with Newell Rubbermaid expired in early November. That did not stop TTI from recruiting Black & Decker brainpower, including Steve Richman, president of Milwaukee tools; Matt DeFeo, vice president of sales, training and recruiting for TTI USA; Alexandre Duarte, president of TTI Europe; and Craig Baxter, president of TTI Canada.

"Over the last six months, dozens of people have left Black & Decker," said Galli. "People don't leave a company if they love it."

As he builds his tool team around him, Galli is counting largely on the Ryobi brand to be his big winner with construction hobbyists who are driven by want, not need. This fall, TTI launched a line of bright green lithium Ryobi tools, one of the latest to offer the longer-lasting, lighter-weight power tools to consumers, sold exclusively through Home Depot.

"Joe is brilliant at merchandising - looking at a product and making some extremely common-sense observations," said Budd Bugatch, a managing director for Raymond James who followed Galli's career at Newell Rubbermaid.

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