Ed Breen Is Back at DuPont’s Helm

US chemical giant ousts both CEO and CFO

  • Ed Breen Is Back at DuPont’s Helm (c) DupontEd Breen Is Back at DuPont’s Helm (c) Dupont

DuPont has reappointed current executive chairman Ed Breen as CEO with immediate effect, ousting incumbent Marc Doyle along with chief financial officer Jeanmarie Desmond. The move has been taken to accelerate an improvement in operational performance.

Lori Koch, vice president of investor relations and corporate financial planning and analysis, and a 17-year veteran of DuPont, is taking over as CFO.

“After careful consideration, the board concluded now is the right time to make these leadership changes, including restoring Ed to the chief executive role to draw more directly on his substantial operating experience,” said DuPont’s lead independent director Alexander Cutler.

Breen became chairman and CEO of DuPont in 2015 after then-chief executive Ellen Kullman resigned amid a struggle with activist investor Nelson Pelz. Together with Dow’s chief Andrew Liveris, Breen led the merger of the two giants in 2017 and the subsequent split of the merged group into three separate businesses last year. 

Breen said that while DuPont had made some progress in 2019 since the demerger, it did not meet its own expectations and now needs to move aggressively to secure its foundation for growth.

“We have solid businesses, but we need to accelerate operational improvement and make sure we are taking appropriate action to deliver on our commitments for the year,” the old and new DuPont chief added.

In the fourth quarter of 2019, DuPont saw a significant fall in sales and income on lower selling prices and decreased volumes. The company said its Transportation & Industrial division had been hit by weak automotive markets and declining nylon prices. Management is expecting 2020 to be another tough year.

Analysts at Bloomberg Intelligence said Ed Breen’s return as CEO should renew DuPont’s focus on cost cuts and long overdue integration after a flurry of acquisitions with guidance of $215 million of 2020 savings countering flat profit views and tepid industrial activity. “Portfolio changes should continue but at a slower pace as Breen focuses on operations,” they said.

Former DuPont CFO Nick Fanandakis will serve as senior advisor to the CEO with a focus on driving the company’s restructuring effort.

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