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Exec Changes Highlight Global Profile

For the second time in six months, a full-line major appliance manufacturer has gone to its European operations to tap a top executive, underlying the increasingly global nature of the white-goods business.

Meanwhile, a third majap supplier plans to create a new top job overseeing its appliance and floor care divisions.

Last month Larry Johnston, a 27-year GE veteran, returned to GE Appliances’ Louisville, Ky., headquarters as president/CEO of GE’s appliance business. Johnston had left Appliance Park for Paris in February 1997 to become president/CEO of GE Medical Systems Europe. Before that, he had been GE Appliances’ VP of sales and distribution.

Johnston succeeded Dave Cote in the top slot at GE Appliances. Cote – who began his 25-year career at GE as a factory employee at the company’s New Hampshire plant while attending college – resigned to become president/CEO of TRW, on track to become that company’s chairman within two years.

Johnston is the second key executive this year to return from Europe to head a top appliance firm. In June, Jeff Fettig, who had headed Whirlpool Europe for five years, was named president/ CEO of Whirlpool Corp.

In making Johnston’s appointment, Jack Welch, GE chairman/CEO, noted, “Larry has a keen understanding of the appliance customers, products and markets. Combined with his track record and experience at the high-tech, globally focused GE Medical Systems, I know Larry will do a terrific job leading the GE Appliances business forward.”

Another large appliance operation is also looking to expand its executive ranks. Maytag Corp. chairman/CEO Lloyd Ward announced last month his plans to create a group president position to lead Maytag’s Home Solutions group, which encompasses its major appliance and floor care divisions. The group was created as part of a September realignment of operations (see TWICE, September 22, p. 43).

Bill Beer is president of the major appliance division, and Keith Minton heads the floor care division.

“We have talented leadership at the division level, and the Maytag, Hoover and Jenn-Air brands are among the best-known in the marketplace,” Ward said. “We also know we can help accelerate growth and profitability with additional world-class leadership at the group level, taking advantage of our strengths across the enterprise and within each division.”