W.R. Grace CFO Tom Blaser leaves at short notice

  • Push-out Score suggests push-out forces
  • After about two years in the position
  • Bill Dockman taking over in the interim
  • Search for a successor

(exechange) — Columbia, Maryland, May 14, 2018 — Tom Blaser, finance chief of W.R. Grace, leaves — “by mutual agreement”. It is a change at short notice. As announced by W.R. Grace & Co. in a news release and in a regulatory filing published on Monday, May 14, 2018, Thomas Eric (Tom) Blaser, Chief Financial Officer, leaves the chemicals company after about two years in the position, effective May 31, 2018.

No company wants a CFO to flame out in the first years.

Among the 3,000 largest publicly held companies incorporated in the U.S. based on market capitalization, the average tenure of the CFOs who departed over the past 12 months was 6.6 years, according to data compiled by exechange. Only 32 percent of the CFOs who departed over the past 12 months left the position within three years.

W.R. Grace will undertake a search for a successor.

Blaser’s duties will be taken over in the interim by William C. (Bill) Dockman, currently Vice President and Controller of W.R. Grace & Co.

“To pursue other interests”

Blaser’s imminent departure from the CFO post is explained as follows. W.R. Grace said: “W. R. Grace & Co. … today announced that by mutual agreement Thomas E. Blaser, Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, will resign from the company effective May 31, 2018 to pursue other interests.”

The phrase “to pursue other interests” opens the door to speculation.

Precise information about Blaser’s future plans was not immediately available.

“Not related to any financial performance, policy, or control issues or any disagreements on accounting or financial reporting matters”

“Blaser’s departure is not related to any financial performance, policy, or control issues or any disagreements on accounting or financial reporting matters,” W.R. Grace said.

It is a phrase that may be intended to prevent false rumors. It may also fuel further speculation and raise more questions than it answers. Such a phrase should be read very carefully. The exact wording may be insightful.

Share price decline

The change follows a decline in the share price of W.R. Grace & Co. since December 2015.

Chaired by Fred E. Festa

W.R. Grace & Co. is chaired by Fred E. Festa.

Fred Festa is the eighth chief executive to lead the company since its founding in 1854. He joined Grace as President and Chief Operating Officer in November 2003, became Chief Executive Officer in June 2005, and was elected Chairman of the Board in January 2008.

In the position of CFO since 2016

Thomas Eric Blaser has been the Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President of W.R. Grace & Co. since February 25, 2016.

He is a member of Grace’s leadership team and responsible for Grace’s global financial management and information technology functions.

Blaser is a seasoned finance professional and proven leader with strong specialty chemical industry experience with global companies.

Before joining Grace, he was President of Arysta LifeScience North America, LLC, a global agricultural chemical and life science business, where he also served for 10 years as Chief Financial Officer.

Previously he held business development and financial leadership responsibilities with Honeywell and audit leadership roles at Price Waterhouse.

Blaser earned an MBA at the Columbia University and a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting at Montclair State University.

At the time of Blaser’s appointment as Chief Financial Officer at W.R. Grace, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Fred Festa had said: “Tom is a proven leader with strong specialty chemical industry experience with global companies. He will be a great addition to our leadership team as we grow our business, maintain our ROIC discipline, and increase productivity through manufacturing excellence.”

Unplanned

As a general rule, when a top leader announces to step down with no permanent successor available, it is a sign that the change was unexpected and too early.

Push-out Score suggests push-out forces

It is not completely certain what forces eventually triggered Tom Blaser’s imminent move.

The Push-out Score™ determined by exechange suggests that push-out forces may have contributed to the change.

Read the full story in the exechange report 21.2018 ($).