When an established company looks beyond its own ranks for new leadership, it's often a sign of major problems within.
And so it may be with Owens-Illinois, Inc.'s hiring of Steven R. McCracken, who will become president and chief executive officer effective next Thursday and chairman in May.
What does it say about Owens-Illinois that it looked elsewhere for its new top executive? A well run company has a succession plan that cultivates and promotes its leadership from within, and indeed, over the years, that has been the Owens-Illinois approach.
Insiders built and sustained this once great company. Many strong, competent, and confident executives moved up through the ranks - men such as William E. Levis, J. Preston Levis, Raymon Mulford, Edwin Dodd, and Robert Lanigan.
In fact, Mr. McCracken's predecessor, Joseph Lemieux, had 42 years with the company when he retired Dec. 31, the last 13 as CEO. Mr. Lemieux was intimately familiar with the glass and plastic container industry and Toledo's place in it.
Mr. McCracken, however, has spent his entire 29-year career at E.I. DuPont, and will have to learn Owens-Illinois' business.
It's a sad reality for Toledo that Owens-Illinois is no longer the redoubtable corporate grande dame it once was. Toledoans of another era who traveled the world welled with pride when they heard Owens-Illinois mentioned with respect and admiration. So great was the regard that Mr. Dodd was appointed chairman of the United States Chamber of Commerce in 1983 for one year just before his retirement.
This was Toledo's great international company, a firm which not only earned a global reputation but maintained an abiding and enduring relationship with Toledo's downtown.
Owens-Illinois has many stakeholders, including its shareholders and employees. But an equal stakeholder is its headquarters city.
That is the history that we hope Mr. McCracken quickly comes to appreciate and understand.
The company should put to rest the perpetual rumors about a move to Perrysburg or anywhere else and commit to keeping its headquarters in its big blue skyscraper at One Seagate. The city would be greatly harmed, both in prestige and economically, if Owens-Illinois were to move elsewhere.
Owens-Illinois has been a leading corporate citizen in this community since its arrival, contributing mightily to Toledo's welfare since 1929. The best way to sustain that relationship is to retain its company headquarters downtown and not flirt with the trendy corporate notion in recent years to relocate to a so-called "campus" environment.
Certainly we wish Mr. McCracken well in his challenging assignment. We hope, along with the rest of the community, that Owens-Illinois can become truly great once again, and that the company is correct in its determination that he is the man to help make it happen.
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