Whirlpool has reassigned executive VP/North America Michael Todman after seven months on the job, and went outside the company — and the appliance industry — to find his successor.
The top U.S. operational spot has gone to David Swift, a former president of Eastman Kodak's Professional Group and a 20-year veteran of the Rochester, N.Y., company.
Todman, in turn, was appointed president of Whirlpool Europe, where he previously spent three years with the majap manufacturer and more than a decade with Wang Laboratories. He was also named a corporate executive VP. Whirlpool describes Europe, along with North America, as one of it principal regional operations.
"Mike's move to Europe signals that Whirlpool is putting one of its best and most internationally seasoned people into one of the company's most important and challenging positions," said Whirlpool chairman/CEO David Whitwam. "With Mike's return to Europe and Dave taking over Whirlpool's North American operations, the company is positioned to continue its steady progress in Europe and its strong momentum in North America."
Todman, formerly senior VP/sales and marketing, assumed the company's top U.S. slot during a challenging period for Whirlpool and the appliance industry, in which double-digit declines in monthly factory shipments became the norm.
Nevertheless, Todman's North American unit posted record sales and operating profit for the third quarter, his last there as executive VP. Operating profit climbed 37 percent on his watch, while the segment enjoyed record third-quarter volume and higher average selling prices.
As Jeff Fettig, Whirlpool's president/ chief operating officer, observed, "In North America, Mike and his leadership team have done a great job in growing revenues by leveraging our strong brands and introducing new products at a record rate, while also driving strong levels of productivity in the business."
"We're gonna miss him," added Bill Trawick, executive director of the NATM Buying Corp. "Mike faced some real tough issues, like the channel plays, and for us he's been a very positive influence. Now we're faced with a new individual who's new to the industry."
Todman, a native of the U.S. Virgin Islands and a graduate of Georgetown University, joined Whirlpool in 1993 after more than a decade in Europe with Wang. He started as finance director in the company's U.K. business and was promoted to general manager of Whirlpool's north European operations before being appointed VP of consumer services for all of Europe.
Todman returned to the United States in 1995 as controller of Whirlpool North America. In quick succession he was promoted to VP product management; VP sales and marketing, Sears; and senior VP sales and marketing, North America. He assumed the segment's top slot as senior VP/sales and marketing this past March.
His successor joined Kodak in 1981 and went on to hold a series of increasingly responsible, global leadership positions in the company before becoming president of the Kodak Professional Group. Previous stints include chief operating officer of the Digital and Applied Imaging Group; and later chairman and president of Kodak's Greater Asia Region, based in Shanghai, China.
"Dave comes to us with the necessary experience to further strengthen our senior executive team and North American operations," Whitwam said.
Added Fettig, "Dave's leadership and global experience with a Fortune 100 company that owns one of the top brand names in the world will be a great addition to our global leadership and North American business."
NATM's Trawick said he was surprised by Whirlpool's decision to go outside the industry for talent. "It was a little strange, but he seems to have the credentials," he said.