Dattilo resigns from Cooper; Byron Pond takes over for now

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The board of directors of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. announced that it has accepted the resignation of Chairman, CEO and President Tom Dattilo, who is leaving to pursue another opportunity.

Byron Pond, a member of Cooper's board of directors since 1998, has been elected interim CEO and will serve in that capacity while a permanent successor is chosen. Pond will join two other directors, Arthur Aronson and John Shuey, in an "Office of the Chairman," which will oversee governance of the company during the search process.

In making this announcement, the company's board of directors made the following statement:

"We appreciate Thomas Dattilo's service to the company. Under Mr. Dattilo's stewardship, the company experienced revenue growth worldwide and expanded aggressively into China through the acquisition of Chengshang Tire Co. Ltd. and a greenfield joint venture with Kenda Rubber Industrial Co. Ltd. We wish him only the best.

"We are committed to finding a permanent successor who will continue to implement the company's strategy and work aggressively to improve operating margins through profitable growth, cost improvement and exceptional customer service. We believe this will lead to the realization of the board's priority of enhancing shareholder value."

John Holland will chair the board's search committee. The board said that the search will be focused on candidates with proven track records in the automotive or other durable goods industries and sound operating experience in managing growth and cost in a global corporation. The board said it has engaged the executive search firm of Spencer Stuart to assist in the search process, and will conduct a thorough but expeditious search that will result in securing the best possible candidate.

Pond retired as CEO from Arvin Industries in 1999. In a post-retirement role, he also served as CEO of Amcast Industrial Corp. He has also served as CEO of Maremont Corp.

The board noted that Cooper is "fortunate to have secured Byron Pond's agreement to serve in the role of interim CEO. He is a proven senior manager who has extensive experience in automotive replacement and OEM markets. We are confident that Mr. Pond has an excellent understanding of what has to be accomplished during this interim period, and he will have the support of a strong management team.

"We have reviewed and approved Mr. Pond's operating plan and the company's management priorities for the next several months," said the board in its official statement. "The operating focus and initiatives to be implemented will provide an excellent bridge to the appointment of a permanent CEO."

During an investor conference call concerning its second quarter results, Pond responded to a question concerning Dattilo's resignation with, "He did resign and we feel he made a lot of important contributions to the company, including improving sales worldwide." His biggest footprint is in China, says Pond.

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