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Whirlpool’s Swift Resigns; Todman Named President

Beleaguered Whirlpool president David Swift has resigned after running the company’s North American operations for nearly six years. He has been succeeded by the man he originally replaced, Michael Todman, who had since headed Whirlpool’s European and global businesses.

Swift’s departure follows a trying period for the world’s largest majap maker, as the daunting integration of its Maytag acquisition, higher raw materials costs, and a dramatic downturn in the U.S. white-goods market have impacted company earnings. Indeed, operating profit for the North American unit fell 19 percent to $159 million during the first quarter, ended March 31.

“Dave Swift has contributed a great deal to our company during his five and a half years at Whirlpool,” said chairman/CEO Jeff Fettig in a statement. “Dave played a critical leadership role in overseeing the successful integration of the Maytag business into our company. Given that this integration is now largely complete, I respect Dave’s decision to now pursue his long-term career aspirations outside of our company. I appreciate Dave’s contribution to the success of Whirlpool.”

Swift, an industry outsider whose background was in marketing, joined Whirlpool as executive VP/North America in 2001 after 20 years with Eastman Kodak.

His successor, Mike Todman, was named executive VP and later president of Whirlpool Europe after Swift assumed his post in North America, a position he held for seven months. Four years later he was promoted to president of Whirlpool International and named to the company’s board. He joined Whirlpool in 1993 as finance director for the U.K. operation, and before that spent 10 years at Wang Laboratories.

In a statement, Fettig described Todman as “an experienced global leader with a strong track record of performance in leading major parts of our global business … I am confident that he will provide great leadership for our North American business as we capitalize on the benefits from the Maytag acquisition and continue our focus on growth by providing innovative products and services to our customers under our leading brand names.”

Todman is being succeeded as president of Whirlpool International by Paulo F.M.O. Periquito, currently a corporate executive VP and president of Whirlpool Latin America.

In other Whirlpool news, the company said it is moving production of single cavity freestanding ranges at its Cleveland, Tenn., plant to factories in Tulsa, Okla., and Celaya, Mexico. Approximately 400 positions will be eliminated in Cleveland following the production ramp-down, to be completed by the end of 2008, mainly through normal attrition and the reduction of temporary positions. The company has not yet determined the number of positions being created at Tulsa and Celaya. Whirlpool said the transfer reflects “the strategic role of the company’s North American manufacturing base within its global manufacturing and distribution network.” Products from the North American facilities are sold to consumers in the United States, Mexico, Canada and in markets around the world.

Separately, Whirlpool said it will outsource production, distribution and marketing of its dehumidifiers and air purifiers next year, resulting in the elimination of about 330 jobs at its LaVergne, Tenn., plant. “This approach brings new opportunities for the Whirlpool brand presence in air control,” said Marise Kumar, Whirlpool VP of business strategy and core competencies. “This future transition will offer our customers expanded product offerings and services.”

The company said it is negotiating a licensing agreement with potential global partners to produce those products under the Whirlpool label, and will fulfill all consumer requirements for the 2007 air control season before production ramps down at LaVergne plant. Whirlpool said it will begin offering expanded product offerings and increased services through the new third-party provider in 2008.

Whirlpool said the changes to its North American air control and cooking platforms are part of an ongoing, comprehensive worldwide plan to optimize regional manufacturing facilities, supply base, product platforms and technology resources to better support its brands with innovative product.