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Published: Thursday, 11/9/2006

O-I chief steps down; new CEO appointed

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER
McCracken McCracken
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The ailing chief executive of metro Toledo's second largest corporation, Owens-Illinois Inc., is stepping down and being replaced by an O-I board member.

Steven McCracken, the chief executive and chairman who had surgery for stomach cancer in August, will leave his job by the end of November.

Named by the Perrysburg company yesterday as the new CEO and chairman is Albert Stroucken, who had been CEO and chairman of H.B. Fuller Co., a St. Paul, Minn., manufacturing of adhesives, sealants, and other chemical products.

He resigned his Minnesota post yesterday morning, and starts Dec. 4 at his job at the top of one of the world's largest glass-bottle makers.

Mr. Stroucken, 58, has been a member of O-I's board since August, 2005. He oversaw a financial turnaround at H.B. Fuller after being named chairman and CEO in the late 1990s. His company had $1.5 billion in sales last year.

The announcement was almost as surprising as the July disclosure about Mr. McCracken's cancer. Last month, the firm announced the 53-year-old would not be back to work full-time for a while as he underwent post-operative care.

Stroucken Stroucken
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His health status is unchanged, said Carol Gee, a spokesman for the $7.2 billion-a-year manufacturer of bottles for beer, wine, and other uses.

"This is about certainty for the company, his family, and himself," Ms. Gee said yesterday.

Mr. McCracken came to O-I in 2004. He and the board of directors later authorized the firm's move from its long-time headquarters on Toledo's downtown riverfront to suburban Perrysburg. The firm has 30,000 global employees.

"We fully understand and respect Steve's decision," the newly appointed CEO said in a statement. "We thank him for his enormous contributions in leading our strategic transformation and I look forward to engaging with the employees of O-I to continue driving toward our goals."

Mr. Stroucken received praise yesterday for his work at H.B. Fuller, in particular for helping to boost the shares of the firm by 68 percent after taking over as CEO in 1998.

"Stroucken wrought a substantial positive transformation on the company," Wall Street analysts Allan Cohen and Ray Kramer of First Analysis Securities Corp. said in a report. "That transformation remains a work in progress."

The H.B. Fuller leader said in a Bloomberg News report: "I find myself ready for a change and a new challenge."

James Baehren, O-I's legal chief, took over temporary leadership of the local firm after Mr. McCracken's illness, though he was not given the title of CEO. With the arrival of a new CEO, he will return to his former post as general counsel, Ms. Gee said.

The O-I leadership change was announced after the close of the stock market last evening. Its shares rose 43 cents, or 2.5 percent, to $17.57 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Contact Gary T. Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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