One of the most durable chemical industry executives, Crompton's Vincent A. Calarco, 61, has relinquished the titles of president and CEO to Robert L. Wood, 49, who was until recently Dow Chemical's group vice president for thermosets and automotive.
Calarco will remain chairman of Crompton, which has annual sales of about $2 billion, until he retires later this year after 19 years with the specialties firm.
Wood is the first African American CEO of a major U.S. chemical firm. He was a 27-year veteran of Dow and, in fact, had been considered a candidate to head the largest U.S. chemical maker. But Dow's decision in early November to appoint Andrew N. Liveris president and chief operating officer opened a new door for Wood.
Calarco says he told the Crompton board a few months ago that it was time for an orderly succession process. He says he has "other challenges I would like to deal with," although he isn't saying what his plans are after he leaves Crompton.
For the near term, Wood, who headed up businesses at Dow with $5.5 billion in annual sales, says he will focus on improving Crompton's shareholder value. "Crompton is a $2 billion-a-year company with an $800 million market capitalization," he tells C&EN. "I want to try to understand what's going on and leverage my background to improve the situation."
Wood, who has a bachelor's degree in history from the University of Michigan, got his start in the chemical industry as a chemical sales trainee at Dow in 1977. After holding jobs at Dow in marketing, sales, and human resources, he moved into a number of senior management positions, including a stint as vice president of the firm's one-time consumer products division, DowBrands.
Wood says his lack of an education as a chemist or chemical engineer will not hinder him and is actually "a real positive." He adds, "I've worked with and competed with scientists, but I approach things from a different perspective."
His perspective includes a stint as a football placekicker for the Michigan Wolverines in the 1970s and as chief operating officer of the city of Indianapolis for six months during the early 1990s. Wood says he expects to take an active role, as Calarco has, in promoting the chemical industry's contributions to society.
When Calarco took over the now 153-year-old Crompton, it was a maker of textile dyes, plastic extrusion equipment, and specialty chemicals with annual sales of $225 million. Though the company has grown—notably through the acquisitions of Uniroyal Chemical and Witco—it has come under financial strain recently. Calarco took a major step to reduce that strain last year by selling the firm's organosilicones franchise to General Electric.