For better or worse, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. is a different company than when Roy Armes took over as leader of the Findlay, Ohio-based tire maker nearly a decade ago.
Following a long career at Whirlpool Corp., Armes was brought in not long after Thomas Dattilo's resignation at Cooper. Dattilo had worked at changing Cooper, bringing it into new areas and raising the profile of the company globally.
During Dattilo's tenure, Cooper first bought and then sold Standard Products, initially giving the firm diversification away from the tire business. After it divested the auto parts business in 2005, that paved the way for Cooper to move into China via the joint venture route.
After Dattilo resigned suddenly in August 2006, Armes was brought in at the start of 2007. He returned a degree of financial stability, as Cooper worked to find its place in the ever-changing global world of tire manufacturing.
That's not to say that everything has changed. Cooper remains a tire company where success almost entirely is tied to the replacement market, something aided by the historic loyalty of its independent dealer network. And 90 percent of Cooper's roughly $3 billion in sales still are derived from the Americas.
Of course, not everything went smoothly. Far from it, especially when taking into account the failed attempt to sell the firm to India's Apollo Tyres Ltd. Much of the blame can be placed on the problems Cooper had with its Chinese joint venture partner in Cooper Chengshan Tire Co. The partner apparently wanted a shot at buying Cooper and the debacle that followed including the JV refusing to make Cooper-brand tires.
But when the dust settled and the Apollo deal was dead and the Cooper Chengshan JV dissolved, Armes didn't have Cooper rebound into another merger. Instead, he led the company back onto a proper course where it put those problems behind it and focus back on making the company profitable, with proper value for its shareholders.
The same day Armes announced his retirement, Cooper Tire released 2015 financial results that, despite a dip in sales, brought record operating profit of $354 million, with a more than healthy 11.9 percent margin.
Armes also is leaving Cooper in capable hands, with Bradley E. Hughes—chief operating officer and senior vice president—ready to continue the path the two executives have been charting the past several years.