People come; people go.
Transitions are a way of life for American businesses. The RV industry is no
exception; however, when the chairman of the board of Fleetwood Enterprises, Inc., decides
to officially retire and sell his 5.2 million shares of stock in the company he founded,
it's big news.
John Crean's exit from Fleetwood culminated a year of
changes in the top management levels at the company. Elden Smith, senior vice president -
RV Group, retired in 1997. Under Smith's guidance, Fleetwood became the number-one
recreational vehicle producer in America. Smith was replaced by Dick Parks. On the
manufactured housing side, Jon Nord, senior vice president - Manufactured Housing Group
also retired in 1997. Under Nord's guidance, Fleetwood became the number-one manufactured
housing producer in America. Nord was replaced by Mallory Smith.
In addition Nelson Potter was appointed executive vice
president, operations, with specific responsibility for the housing group, the
recreational vehicle group, the supply subsidiaries and the company's administrative and
human resource functions.
Coinciding with Crean's decision to leave in January,
Glenn F. Kummer, formerly president and chief operating officer, was named chairman of the
board of directors and chief executive officer. And then Potter, who barely had time to
break in his new chair, was named to fill the positions vacated by Kummer. So today at
Fleetwood we see a lot of familiar people sitting in unfamiliar seats. And the man in the
driver's seat is Glenn Kummer.
And while there does seem to be a lot of significant
changes within a short period of time, the impact of these changes should not have a
dramatic effect on Fleetwood's success. Why? Because Glenn Kummer has been virtually
acting as the top executive for a lot of years. He's the anchor.
Mr. Crean has held the titles, but Kummer was making the
day-to-day operating decisions. John Crean made no secret of the fact that he hated office
work, so he turned that part of the business over to Kummer several years ago.
In 1989, RV News interviewed Crean. He said his
first love was developing product, not running his multimillion dollar corporation. He
said, "I don't know what people do at desks. Product has always been my long
In a February interview Kummer acknowledged to RV News
that it was probably true that the Fleetwood executive staff have been running the company
for some time. He said, "I stayed in contact with Mr. Crean, however, the decision
making has not been with myself, but it's been with the management team. That management
team has been creating the guidance and then always sharing their thinking with the board.
"Fleetwood has so many good, qualified people from
the plant level up through the operating groups -- excellent people. The basic policies of
the company, the compensation rewards, and other things have helped us maintain a
longevity among our people -- so we have good people.
"When Elden left, we picked Dick Parks to take that
position. He had been in the motorhome division for almost two years and was ready to come
over and take Elden's spot. When you go to a new chair, you learn by experience. Things
look a little different and things transpire differently. But he was ready for it.
"Then we made the change over in the housing side.
When Jon Nord left, Mallory Smith came in. Mallory has been with the company almost 30
years and knows the system so he's done a great job in the transition."
We asked Kummer, why now? What were Crean's reasons for
Kummer said, "He said that he had been doing a lot
of reading where too many founders stayed on too long; they don't stay current so they
fall behind. I think that was his primary motive for making the decision that he made.
"But another part of it was that Mr. Crean got to
the position in his life, he's 72-years-old, where he wanted to do some estate planning.
He is a benevolent person as far as charities so he and his wife Donna wanted to work on
that aspect of his estate."
RV News observed that Crean's innovative genius
with product will be missed. He personally has been responsible for many of the
industry-changing developments in RVs over the past 40 years. One of his latest
contributions was the development of the basement model motorhome, the highly successful