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Fifteen months ago, Black Enterprise reported that Lloyd D. Ward, president and COO at Maytag Corp., was an arm’s length from the CEO chair at the Newton, Iowa, appliance giant. Well, no longer. Effective August 12, Ward takes over as chairman and CEO of the $4.07 billion home and commercial appliance manufacturer. As the handpicked successor to Maytag’s current chairman, Leonard A. Hadley, who retired at the mandatory age of 65, Ward will assume the helm of a company leading its industry with cutting-edge products, a reinvigorated marketing strategy and a strong bottom line.
Ward, an engineering graduate of Michigan State University, becomes only the second African American to assume the CEO’s chair at a Fortune 500 company, following in the footsteps of Franklin Raines, who took over at Fannie Mae. (Kenneth I. Chenault will become the next CEO at American Express when its current chairman, Harvey Golub, steps down in 2001.)
“I’m thoroughly humbled, honored and excited to be able to have this opportunity to lead one of America’s finest corporations into the next millennium,” says Ward, 50. “The objective is not just to assume the role. But my goal is to be the best CEO on the planet.”
Ward joined Maytag in April 1996 as executive vice president of the company and president of the Maytag appliance division after a five-year stint at the Frito-Lay division of PepsiCo, where he was president of its central division.
“He was hired into the single largest operating division in the company with the hope that after a few years, he would become corporate president and then take over the CEO job,” said Hadley in an interview. “There are other operating divisions that have presidents, but the ‘big job’ was the appliance division (which accounts for over half of the company’s business and revenue). We had high hopes for him coming in to be my successor, but he had to prove himself-and he did-successfully,” Hadley adds.
Maytag’s strategy, according to Ward, is to reinvigorate consumer purchasing habits so that appliances are purchased when new models are made, not when products wear out. Accepting Ward’s challenge, Maytag marketers put together a campaign never before seen in the appliance industry-a pre-sell effort designed to create excitement and sales before a new washer, the Neptune, was available at retail. To wit, the manufacturer debuted the high-efficiency washer at a previously unheard of retail price of $1,000 in March 1997 to rave reviews.
“All systems are go on Maytag. When you think of them, you think of steady growth. They sell their line of appliances very well and they are extremely profitable,” says Steven Singleton, director of research at Robert Van Securities in Oakland, California.
“What is significant about Lloyd Ward’s appointment is that he was brought in as a successor to the CEO in a way that heretofore was available only to white Americans and Europeans,” says David A. Thomas, Ph.D., professor of organizational behavior and human resource management at the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration and author of the