PPG's LeBoeuf to retire as CEO

Raymond W. LeBoeuf, the PPG Industries Inc. chairman and chief executive officer who presided over a period of global expansion for the paints, glass and chemicals maker, said yesterday that he would retire July 1.

Named to succeed LeBoeuf was Charles E. Bunch, 55, the current PPG president who, effective yesterday, also assumed the CEO post.

"I feel very comfortable not just with Chuck Bunch but that the whole leadership team is well qualified to take the company to another level of performance," LeBoeuf, 58, said during an interview in the company's board room on the 40th floor of its landmark Downtown headquarters.

LeBoeuf's retirement was not unexpected and was part of a long-term succession plan previously approved by the board of directors. The change barely caused a blip on Wall Street, with PPG closing up 52 cents to $71.52 on the New York Stock Exchange in trading that was below the average daily volume for the past three months.

LeBoeuf, a Chicago native, joined PPG in 1980 as treasurer after working in financial management for Ford Motor Co. Four years later, he was named controller and subsequently held a series of executive positions before being elected president and chief operating officer in 1995. He was named chairman and CEO in 1997.

Last year, LeBoeuf's total compensation at PPG was $7.5 million, while Bunch's was $2.9 million.

LeBoeuf said his fondest memories are of his first and last jobs at PPG.

"They were like bookends ... Being treasurer was my launching pad with the company at a time we were changing and funding and resources were very important. Cash flow took on important meaning in the '80s."

As chief executive and chairman, LeBoeuf had "an opportunity to lead, influence and to motivate. It's a great position to interact with people."

During his 25 years at PPG, the company's revenue stream shifted from a focus on glass to paints and coatings. While LeBoeuf was chairman, PPG invested $3.2 billion in coatings, including about $2 billion in acquisitions.

When he joined PPG, 37 percent of its $3.2 billion in annual revenue was generated by glass, 31 percent from chemicals and 26 percent from coatings. By 2004, coatings had swelled to 56 percent of total record sales of $9.5 billion. Glass accounted for 23 percent of revenue and chemicals, 21 percent.

A year ago at the annual meeting, LeBoeuf told shareholders that the company didn't expect to invest any more resources in expanding glass. Its future growth engines, he said, are coatings and opticals such as Transitions lenses -- the eyeglasses that automatically change from clear to shaded depending on the light.

But even as PPG makes a huge push to expand market share in architectural and industrial coatings, LeBoeuf said it had maintained a strong presence in "our heritage businesses."

"We're performing at the top of the totem pole with our peer groups."

His tenure at the top had its share of challenges.

PPG was hit hard by the recession of 2001, with sales falling 5 percent and net income dropping 38 percent. It implemented a wide-ranging restructuring plan that included closing and downsizing plants in the United States and abroad, and cutting 1,000 jobs from its worldwide work force of about 35,000.

It also reached a $500 million settlement in 2002 in a high-profile asbestos case related to its ownership of bankrupt Pittsburgh Corning Corp. PPG expects to eventually pay a total of $1 billion to settle the claims.

But LeBoeuf said he was proud PPG avoided ethical scandals that ravaged big companies the last couple years.

"The hallmark of the company is: We were able to compete at the highest level without compromising our integrity."

He has no regrets about what he did or didn't accomplish as CEO and chairman.

"When you take on a new assignment, you create a 'stretch' list and a 'should get done' list. I feel good we did complete our 'should get done' list and made progress on the 'stretch' list."

The retiring chairman said he would maintain his home in Pittsburgh as well as one in Florida because, "I have no desire to see snow again."

As he prepares to leave, LeBoeuf has no advice for Bunch but just some for himself: "Walk away. Stay away and be a good cheerleader to those you left .... They don't need you."

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