Verso CEO Chris DiSantis leaves abruptly

  • Push-out Score determined
  • After about two years in the position
  • Thanks and good wishes for DiSantis
  • Les Lederer taking over in the interim
  • Search for a successor
  • DiSantis kept it short and said 50 words

(exechange) — Miamisburg, Ohio, April 11, 2019 — Chris DiSantis, chief executive of Verso, leaves. It is an abrupt change. As announced by Verso Corp. in a news release and in a regulatory filing published on Thursday, April 11, 2019, B.Christopher (Chris) DiSantis has left his post as chief executive officer at the paper mill company after about two years in the role, effective April 5, 2019.

No company wants a CEO to depart 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 CEOs who departed over the past 12 months was 7.8 years, according to data compiled by exechange. Only 24 percent of the CEOs who departed over the past 12 months left the position within three years.

Verso will undertake a search for a successor.

Chris DiSantis’s duties were taken over in the interim by Leslie T. (Les) Lederer, a former chairman, interim president and chief executive officer of Catalyst Paper Company, as interim chief executive officer.

It is a reverse generational change. Les Lederer is about 23 years older than Chris DiSantis.

No reason given

In the announcement, Verso did not explicitly explain the obviously compelling reason for Chris DiSantis’s sudden move, leaving room for speculation.

Precise information regarding Chris DiSantis’s future plans was not immediately available.

Alarm signal

Generally speaking, it is often a wake-up call for investors when a CEO leaves the position abruptly and without a reasonable explanation.

“Stepped down”

Verso said: “B. Christopher DiSantis has stepped down as President and Chief Executive Officer and member of the Verso Corporation board of directors effective as of April 5, 2019.”

Verso further said: “Effective as of April 5, 2019, B. Christopher DiSantis ceased being Chief Executive Officer … and a member of the Board of Directors … of Verso Corporation.”

“Not due to any disagreement”

“His decision to resign as a director was not due to any disagreement with the Company’s operations, policies or practices,” Verso 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 announcement follows a decline in Verso Corporation’s share price of 33 percent since September 2018.

Chaired by Alan J. Carr and Eugene I. Davis

Verso Corporation is chaired by Alan J. Carr and Eugene I. Davis.

Alan J. Carr is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Drivetrain Advisors Ltd., a fiduciary services firm that supports the investment community in legally- and process-intensive investments as a representative, director or trustee. Carr is Co-chairman of the Board of Verso, a member of the Audit Committee, a member of the Compensation Committee, and Co-chairperson of the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee.

Eugene I. Davis is the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of PIRINATE Consulting Group, LLC, a privately held consulting firm specializing in turnaround management, merger and acquisition consulting, hostile and friendly takeovers, proxy contests and strategic planning advisory services for domestic and international public and private business entities. Davis is Co-chairman of the Board of Verso, a member of the Compensation Committee, and a member and Co-chairperson of the Corporate Governance and Nominating Committee.

In the position of CEO since 2017

DiSantis has been the President and Chief Executive Officer and a director of Verso since February 2017.

Before joining Verso, he was the Chief Executive Officer of H-D Advanced Manufacturing Company, a diversified manufacturer of motion control products, from 2012 to January 2017.

DiSantis was the Chief Executive Officer of Latrobe Specialty Metals, Inc., a worldwide supplier of premium alloys, from 2011 to 2012.

He worked at Hawk Corporation, a global designer and manufacturer of friction technology solutions, from 2000 to 2010 in various management positions, including President and Chief Operating Officer from 2006 to 2010.

Within the past five years, DiSantis has served as a director and Chairman of the Board of Hardinge Inc.

In addition, DiSantis is and has been a director of private companies in a variety of industries.

Unexpected

Generally speaking, when a top leader announces to step down with no permanent successor available, it is a sign that the move was unexpected and too early.

Push-out Score determined

The Push-out Score™ determined by exechange gauges the likelihood that Chris DiSantis was pushed out or felt pressure to leave the position.

exechange reached out to Verso and offered the company the opportunity to comment on the score.

Read the full story in the exechange report 15.2019 ($).