Thomas A. Dattilo's departure from the top post at Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. was sudden and a surprise. And at the same time, not so surprising.
Dattilo's more than seven-year tenure was lengthy for the CEO of a billion-dollar, publicly held business. CEOs of such companies based in the U.S. and Canada generally last on the job for about four years, if that. By those standards, Dattilo had a long, mostly successful run.
Dattilo led Cooper during a time of vast change for the tire manufacturer and the industry itself.
During his reign Cooper sold off the non-tire Cooper-Standard Automotive division. The company put its focus completely on the tire industry, where it had made its name as an aftermarket supplier.
Cooper under Dattilo might have been late compared with its peers in turning to the lower-cost foreign manufacturing regions. But when it did, it went after it in a big way, with joint ventures and the acquisition of a Chinese tire maker.
Cooper, like other tire makers, found itself a target during the tire recall era that started in 2000. Dattilo made it his personal mission to publicly defend his company and attack trial lawyers and anyone he perceived as supporting them. In the end, however, Cooper got caught in the reality of ``what costs more-settle or fight.'' It settled.
Ultimately the enormous increases in raw material costs, a market slowdown and delays in expanding overseas have hurt Cooper financially. The announcement that Dattilo had resigned to pursue the ubiquitous ``another opportunity'' came the same day the firm announced a $21 million loss for the second quarter.
Cooper was profitable in four of the five years Dattilo ran the company. But it has posted losses for five consecutive quarters, its stock price-hovering around $18 a share a year ago-now is about $8, and Dattilo is gone. Wall Street, with no memory and totally unforgiving, has ruled. And that is no surprise.