Monday, December 15, 2008

James Kilts

James Kilts graduated from Knox College and earned an MBA at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. From there, he has worked at many of the leading companies in America, becoming known as one the leading turn-around men in the business. In other words, he has taken many struggling and even failing companies and put them back on the path to prosperity and innovation.

The most famous of Kilts's rescues involves the Gillette company, founded by another hero of capitalism, King Camp Gillette in 1901. When he took over the company in early 2001, it was struggling to stay afloat—the company had missed earnings projections for fourteen straight quarters, sales and earnings had not grown in five years, and over two-thirds of their product line had declining market shares. The stock had lost thirty percent between 1997 and 2000, a period when the Dow Jones gained over 70% and the S&P Index was up over 90%. In short, the company that made Duracell batteries, Mach 3 razors, and Oral-B toothbrushes was hurting badly.

Kilts had vast experience in saving long-favored but struggling retail brands—he had saved Kool-Aid, then Post Cereals and cheeses at the Kraft group, then at Nabisco he turned Oreo and Chips Ahoy brands around to success. Because of these former successes, Gillette board member Warren Buffett lobbied to hire Kilts to help save the company. Kilts's detail-orientation and ruthless focus on accountability helped turn the company back to profitability and saw its market share in its most important brands grow.

Kilts brought discipline to the company by bringing spending and overhead growth into line with industry standards, reduced working capital as a percentage of sales (which had been as high as 35% compared to rivals Proctor and Gamble's 1%), and he revitalized their supply chain by bringing together orders for raw supplies from different divisions instead of having duplicate orders, saving the company hundreds of millions of dollars overnight.

Kitls has since moved on from Gillette after he negotiated its $57 billion sale to Proctor and Gamble. He now works at Centerview Partners Management, a New York-based investment group. He also serves on the boards of directors for Pfizer, Met-Life, and MeadWestvaco

Sources:
James Kilts profile in Fortune
James Kilts, Doing What Matters

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