Navigating Rough Waters

Steering their companies through an economic storm, america's leading black executives are facing their leading black Executives are facing their boldest challenges yet

position as chairman and CEO of Avis Group Holdings Inc. after successfully overhauling operations, increasing revenues, and cleaning up its balance sheet. After Rand gave the car rental company a new finish, Cendant Corp., the nation’s largest hospitality company and an 18% Avis shareholder, acquired the remaining shares and added Avis to its portfolio of companies. Rand’s package: roughly $15 million.

Another CEO, Clifford L. Alexander Jr., vacated the top spot as chairman and CEO of Dun & Bradstreet Corp. (D&B) — but didn’t leave the company. The 67-year-old former Secretary of the Army was slated to serve as interim chairman at Dun & Bradstreet, a New York financial research firm. Alexander assumed the role of chairman of Moody’s Corp., a D&B subsidiary, in a non-executive capacity, and was instrumental in arranging the spin-off from the business-rating service into a public entity in 2000.

Other top execs resigned to take on other challenges. Ann M. Fudge, 50, a 14-year veteran of Kraft Foods Inc. who rose to become group vice president, left for an opportunity to work in another industry, and Kenneth Coleman of Silicon Graphics Inc. retired from the outfit to pursue new ventures. Professionals such as Sylvester Green, executive vice president of insurance giant Chubb & Son, and Roy Roberts, the vice president who oversaw North American vehicle sales and marketing for General Motors, retired from their powerful posts, and decided to bring old economy sensibilities to new economy companies. In fact, Roberts discovered just how brutal his brave new business world could be: After six months running M-Xchange.com, a $3.5 million Internet venture designed to link minority suppliers with Fortune 500 companies, he shut down the operation when the dotcom bubble started to burst two years ago.

Another member of the Top 50, 47-year-old Paget Alves, decided to embrace the risks of entrepreneurship in the hopes that it will bring future rewards. Last year, he left his position as president of Sprint Communications Corp.’s Business Service Group, a mammoth operation that generated $8 billion in revenues and employed 8,000 workers, to run Austin, Texas-based PointOne telecommunications, a small, 120-person start-up. At the time he took the position, Alves asserted: “Small firms like ours really offer a great opportunity to impact the marketplace and leave a mark on what is taking place from a technology and a services standpoint. It’s just an overall challenging, more interesting opportunity for me.”

The most recent retiree, Elliot S. Hall, vice president of dealer development and 15-year veteran at Ford Motor Co., has decided to stick around. In his former capacity, he oversaw the development of minority-owned Ford dealerships, which currently accounts for roughly 7.5% of the companies total dealership body of 5,200 dealers.

Hall, 63, who announced his plans at the end of 2001, decided to remain with the company as a consultant to help ease the transition for his second in command, George Frame, who will take up the reins.

Like many of the departing top execs, Hall, too, steps down at a tumultuous time at

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