Outsider becomes CEO: We’re hoping she’ll take care of advertising

Outsider becomes CEO: We’re hoping she’ll take care of advertising


Steve’s breakdown: United Parcel Service hasn’t had a good campaign in a while. Remember “What can brown do for you?” YIKES! Now they have spots that are all over the place strategically speaking. Hopefully this spring will bring with it a breathe of fresh air in advertising.

SANDY SPRINGS, GA: United Parcel Service Inc. said Chief Executive David Abney is stepping down from the role and will be succeeded by board member Carol Tomé, the first outsider to run the century-old delivery giant.

Ms. Tomé, a longtime UPS director and former finance chief at Home Depot Inc., will take over as CEO on June 1. Mr. Abney, who also serves as chairman, will become executive chairman on that date and retire from the board entirely on Sept. 30.

UPS said William Johnson, its lead independent director and former longtime CEO at food company H.J. Heinz Co., will become nonexecutive chairman on Sept. 30.

Mr. Abney, like many UPS leaders, is a company lifer. He has spent nearly a half-century at the delivery giant, starting as a part-time package loader in college and rising through the ranks to hold several key posts including president of UPS International and chief operating officer. He took over as CEO in September 2014.

His exit follows on the heels of the departure of UPS’s No. 2 executive. Chief Operating Officer Jim Barber, 59 years old, retired in January. The company veteran was widely seen as Mr. Abney’s most likely successor and his departure opened up the CEO race. The company hasn’t filled the vacancy created by Mr. Barber’s retirement.

Ms. Tomé, 63 years old, joined the UPS board in 2003. She retired last year after 18 years as Home Depot’s finance chief. She worked with five CEOs and helped the home-improvement chain turn around after the 2008 financial and housing crisis, but was never selected for the top job.

Mr. Abney, 65, has steered UPS through the explosion of e-commerce. Under his leadership, UPS was quick to embrace the rise of online shopping, investing heavily to upgrade its network to handle the surge. Rival FedEx Corp., by contrast, ceded the less-profitable business of delivering internet orders to homes before changing course recently.

While FedEx has cut ties with Amazon.com Inc., UPS has cozied up to the U.S.’s largest online retailer. The company said Amazon spent $8.6 billion with UPS last year, accounting for 11.6% of overall revenue.

The large exposure to Amazon has rattled some investors, who see that business as vulnerable because the online retailing giant is building up its own delivery network and increasingly delivering more of its own packages.

UPS has also been under pressure as it continues to ramp up spending to handle the growth of packages from an increase in online shopping.

Last year’s performance fell short of some internal goals, which resulted in management bonuses being paid out at around 40% of targets, leaving some employees expecting change at the top.

A company spokesman said the recent performance wasn’t tied to the management change, which he said was part of long-range succession planning conducted by the board.

Through Wednesday, UPS shares have fallen 19.2% over the past year, and are down 10.9% over the past five years.

In recent years, the Atlanta-based UPS has filled its leadership ranks with outsiders. It hired a PepsiCo Inc. executive as finance chief in 2019 and a Walmart Inc. executive in 2017 to oversee its transformation efforts.

The company was run for five decades by its founder, Jim Casey. It was employee-owned until an initial public offering in 1999. The Atlanta Business Chronicle earlier reported that Mr. Abney was expected to step down from his roles.

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