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

the organization. Former CEO Jacques A. Nasser was removed and succeeded by founder Henry Ford’s well-liked great-grandson, William C. Ford Jr. Meanwhile, the
automaker struggles to make profits, introducing 0% financing with the hopes of boosting unit sales, while what he refers to as an “unjustified cloud” continues to loom over the Ford Explorer due to reports that SUVs equipped with Firestone tires caused numerous fatal accidents. (Ford recalled the tires in 2000 and severed its relationship with the tire manufacturer. This resulted in lower sales in the U.S. For 2000, Ford’s net income in America totaled $4.88 billion on sales of $103.9 billion, compared with $5,418 million in 1999 on sales of $99.2 billion.)

With that stigma attached to the vehicle, even a year later, Hall’s focus will be damage control. “We told all our dealers to invite their old Explorer customers in for a test drive [of the 2002 Explorer],” he says. “We told them to take the article out of Consumer Reports [ranking the SUV No. 1 on its list] and mail it to their customers. Whatever you need to do to market the product.”

It is not yet known whether other members of the 2000 Top 50 list will join Hall and the others. One thing is clear: These brilliant, enterprising leaders will make a lasting mark in business. Kenneth I. Chenault
AMERICAN EXPRESS
Turnaround In The Cards
AGE 50
TITLE Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
BUSINESS CHALLENGE
Weakened economy and reduced consumer and business spending has produced a significant decline in revenues. Because of the September 11 attacks, Chenault is in the process of relocating workforce and motivating the troops.
CURRENT STRATEGY
Staying true to his business mantra of not standing still and focusing on long-term survival and growth, this turnaround expert is executing a strategic plan to lower operating expenses while growing existing business and providing top-drawer customer service.

 

Stanley O’Neal
MERRILL LYNCH
Banking On A Cost-Cutting Program
AGE 51
TITLE President and COO
BUSINESS CHALLENGE
Trying to increase profitability at the financial services giant as investors continue to be skittish about an ever-volatile stock market. Investment-banking activities have suffered, in part, due to a moribund IPO market.
CURRENT STRATEGY
Continue the aggressive cost-cutting program similar to the one O’Neal implemented as head of the firm’s domestic private client group two years ago. In addition to slashing the investment banking and trust departments, he has offered voluntary buyout packages to the company’s 66,000 workers.

John W. Thompson
SYMANTEC CORP.
Seeking Growth Through Computer Security
AGE 51
TITLE Chairman, President and CEO
BUSINESS CHALLENGE
Meeting the growing demand for comprehensive software solutions for customers seeking protection of e-mail and Web traffic from computer viruses and worms.
CURRENT STRATEGY
Development of more innovative and effective computer security software, while ensuring that the company holds its leadership position in the creation and marketing of personal computer utilities and antiviral software.

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