Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bridgestone Americas CEO Mark Emkes to retire

After a year in which his company posted "solid profits" despite the recession, the chairman, CEO and president of Nashville-based Bridgestone Americas Inc., Mark A. Emkes, announced his retirement Friday, effective Feb. 28.
In replacing him, the Japanese tire and automotive-service company will split Emkes' job into two posts — with one executive named as chairman and another to the dual jobs of CEO and president, Bridgestone said.

Effective March 1, Asahiko "Duke" Nishiyama will become chairman, and Gary A. Garfield will be CEO and president.

Additionally, Eduardo Minardi will be named chief operating officer. Minardi also will be given the duties of chairman, CEO and president of Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, the Bridgestone Americas unit that comprises the company's Latin American tire operations and the U.S. and Canadian consumer and commercial tire businesses.

Emkes joined the former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. in 1976 as a college-class trainee, where his first job was changing tires in a Firestone retail store in Baytown, Texas. Bridgestone later acquired Firestone.

He served in key management jobs for the company in Spain, Mexico, Brazil and the United Arab Emirates before moving to Nashville in 2000 to take over as president of Bridgestone Firestone Latin America. In 2004, he became chairman and CEO of the Americas operations, and the president's title was added in January last year.

Emkes' retirement, which he said was a promise made to his wife, Conchi, had been planned for a while. But he delayed it to help the tire company through financial problems brought on by the recession, he said.

Promise made to wife

"Several years ago, my wife, who is from the north of Spain, told me that when our youngest daughter goes off to college, 'You'll have to retire because I'll be alone,' " Emkes said.

The daughter went to college last fall, so now he's keeping that promise. The couple will split their time between their Nashville home and a "humble apartment in Spain," he said.

He is leaving Bridgestone Americas in good hands, however, Emkes said. "I've pushed hard for an open, honest, transparent culture, and they also embrace that culture," he said of the new management team. "I feel very good about the three people who are stepping in behind me."

The company had a dismal year in 2008, but a profitable one in 2009, in large part because of cost cutting and solid sales in replacement tires and the auto care business, he said. "Volumes were down, but because of the efforts on costs and expenses, we were able to produce some significant profit numbers," he said.

Last year's cost cuts included the closure of Bridgestone's passenger-tire production operations in La Vergne in June. That resulted in 600 layoffs at the plant.

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