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CEO, Global Building Products

Blackwood’s client is a mid-size global building products and solutions provider with revenues of around €500m and the leading position in its market niche worldwide. The business is owned by two global private equity funds, who were not happy with the performance of the company and had taken a decision to replace the CEO.

Role

Due to the presence of an incumbent in the role, the search had to be conducted in complete confidence. The business had been underperforming for a number of years, with no real leadership, a stale, sleepy culture and remote headquarters, which made recruitment of the top global talent more challenging. In addition, the business had a serious liquidity problem, broke bank covenants and was going through refinancing, which the incumbent CEO was unable to successfully complete. The above placed a substantial time pressure on the search process and limited the candidate pool, as we were unable to proceed with executives who had a six month or longer notice period. Considering the severity of the company’s situation, the shareholders wanted to see seasoned, experienced CEOs, rather than step-up candidates, with a clear track record of major successful transformations in their previous roles. The process was complicated further by the need to satisfy three key decision makers – two private equity funds and an influential Chairman.

Search Process

Blackwood worked very closely with the private equity owners and the Chairman to understand the business challenge, define the criteria for this appointment and develop the approach script that allowed us to go into the market without revealing the company’s identity. We identified potential candidates and interviewed and assessed them without disclosing the name or exact nature of the business, the identity of the owners, detailed financials or even the location of this role (despite the relocation of the CEO near the headquarters being a pre-requisite for the job). The short list included four candidates of three nationalities, with two of them coming from the construction sector and the other two from different industries, all with substantial change management credentials and with a maximum of three months’ notice period. The candidates were not informed of the identity of the company until after their first interview with the shareholders and the Chairman, and had to sign non-disclosure agreements before receiving the financial data.

Outcome

Blackwood appointed the former CEO of a €2bn listed US industrial corporation, who had left that business six months earlier and was looking for his next challenge both in the US and Europe. Being a European national, his preference was to relocate back to Europe and he was happy to base himself and his family near the company headquarters. He had the right drive and personality to transition from a listed into a private equity owned business and a wealth of international restructuring experience. Blackwood conducted extensive referencing around the circumstances of his departure from his prior business, which fully satisfied our client. Since the new CEO’s arrival, the refinancing has been successfully completed and the business is showing strong signs of recovery.

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