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Published: Thursday, 5/10/2007

Change under way, O-I CEO says

BY HOMER BRICKEY
BLADE SENIOR BUSINESS WRITER
Albert Stroucken addresses the first shareholder meeting to be held in Owens-Illinois' new Perrysburg headquarters. Albert Stroucken addresses the first shareholder meeting to be held in Owens-Illinois' new Perrysburg headquarters.
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Albert Stroucken, chairman and chief executive officer of Owens-Illinois Inc., told shareholders yesterday that he "cannot be happy about our performance over the last two years."

But Mr. Stroucken, speaking at the glass-container firm's first annual meeting at its Perrysburg headquarters campus, said, "Change is under way."

He is trying to push the company to a higher level of performance.

Mr. Stroucken, who took over as CEO in December, told about 100 shareholders that the board of the Fortune 500 firm will make a decision within two months whether to sell its plastics-packaging operation that last year generated $772 million in sales, more than 10 percent of O-I's $7.5 billion in revenues.

He replaced CEO Steven McCracken, who resigned after stomach cancer surgery. Mr. Stroucken has been a board member since 2005.

The company chairman said he is unhappy about the last two years' results. The company chairman said he is unhappy about the last two years' results.
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In an interview after the 25-minute annual meeting, the company leader said he had no simple explanation for the firm's recent stock gains. O-I shares surpassed $32 a share for the first time since mid-1999. They closed yesterday at $32.94, up 44 cents, a having gained 75 percent since the start of the year and 25 percent since O-I announced in late April that first-quarter profit doubled from a year ago.

The firm's 28,000 global employees are being trained in Lean Six Sigma, a quality-management system used by a number of America's largest corporations. Mr. Stroucken pushed that program in recent years at his former firm, H.B. Fuller Co., a St. Paul, Minn., maker of adhesives and sealants.

The CEO said the board will soon tackle whether to sell the highly profitable plastics segment that makes such things as prescription bottles. In recent years, O-I sold off its plastic-bottle operations for about $1.2 billion. A sale of the rest would bring in enough money to help pay off some debt, he said.

O-I will raise its glass-container prices to regain higher costs for energy, raw materials, and health-care benefits, he said. The company cares more about margin than volume of sales, he added.

Also at the meeting, O-I's oldest director, 77-year-old Robert Dineen, retired. A board member for 13 years and its lead director for a time, he is the retired chairman of Layne Christensen Co., of Mission Woods, Kan., a drilling and construction-services firm.

Contact Homer Brickey at:

homerbrickey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6129.


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