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Doyle is out, Breen is in at DuPont

DuPont is back in the hands of its former CEO

by Alexander H. Tullo
February 20, 2020 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 98, ISSUE 8

 

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Credit: DuPont
Ed Breen

In a major management shake-up, DuPont’s board has ousted CEO Marc Doyle after less than a year on the job. Ed Breen, DuPont’s executive chairman, has been named CEO.

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Credit: DuPont
Marc Doyle

Additionally, Chief Financial Officer Jeanmarie Desmond has been replaced by Lori D. Koch, the company’s vice president of investor relations.

This isn’t Breen’s first rodeo. He became CEO of DuPont in 2015 when its board fired longtime head Ellen Kullman after a dismal quarter and a contentious fight with the activist investor Nelson Peltz. Once in the job, Breen immediately began negotiating the merger with Dow Chemical to form DowDuPont.

He led DowDuPont from 2017 until last June, when it finished splitting into three firms: Dow, DuPont, and Corteva Agriscience.

But DuPont had a rocky start under Doyle. “While we made some progress in 2019, we did not meet our own expectations and we now need to move aggressively to secure our foundation for growth,” Breen says in a statement.

The company did indeed have a tough 2019. Sales for the year declined 5%, and adjusted earnings per share dropped 7%. It did save over $500 million from a restructuring program it unveiled last year, however.

Breen has a reputation for breaking up large companies, which he earned during his time as CEO of Tyco. He has repeatedly said DuPont’s four main businesses could become separate companies.

DuPont already has a signed deal to merge one of those businesses, the Nutrition & Biosciences division, with International Flavors & Fragrances.

When stock analysts asked Breen on a recent conference call about the possibility of similar transactions—such as for its electronic materials business—he noted that DuPont is “actively in conversations with others.” Analysts, concerned about DuPont’s recent results, welcomed Breen’s return to the helm. Goldman Sachs analyst Robert Koort told clients that the management change “suggests a reinvigorated focus on fundamental performance.” Deutsche Bank analyst David Begleiter says the shift could mean big changes. “With no clear successor following the departure of CEO Marc Doyle, it is more likely, in our view, that Mr. Breen ultimately sells or fully breaks up DuPont.”

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