Execs Rise, Fall, and Drop Out


By Olga Kharif Corporate highflyers are zipping around, and we track their flight paths for you. Here's a sampling of their moves this week:

SPACE CUBED. Patrick Crowley's office digs got downsized when he accepted the CFO job at graphics-chip maker ATI Technologies (ATYT

). At his previous job, he actually had an office. Now, he's the proud occupant of a cubicle. Crowley is trying to put a good face on it: "ATI is a cube farm," he tells BusinessWeek Online. "Offices can be enclosed, and cubes allow for fantastic interaction."

On the other hand, having an office doesn't guarantee job security, as Crowey knows only too well. Canada Life Financial, where Crowley was CFO before moving to ATI, was acquired, and Crowley's job ended last April. Is he hoping semiconductors will be more stable than financial services? That could be a long shot. Still, he expects the transition to be smooth. "When you're in a CFO role, your toolbox works in many industries," he says. Sure, and if it were me, I'd be using that toolbox to add some walls and a door to my cubicle.

CAR TALK. Adriane Brown sees her latest appointment as something of a return to her roots. The newly minted CEO of Honeywell's (HON

) $4.3 billion transportation-systems unit says she has always been fascinated by cars. When she was little, this self-proclaimed "daddy's girl" would hang out in the garage and go to car races with her father. Eventually, she began running the automotive-products unit of Corning (GLW

). Then, a few years ago, she really stepped out of her comfort zone, taking a position in Honeywell's aerospace biz. Now, she has returned to automotive, and "it's a pleasure to be back home," she tells BusinessWeek Online.

Brown has big plans for the business, which makes everything from engine parts to antifreeze and wax. It's all about elbowing into new markets, she says. For instance, Honeywell makes turbochargers used to boost car engines. The same products, she figures, could be sold for other kinds of engines. The company's filtration products could find uses beyond the automobile as well, she says. Translation: Brown might be back in automotive, but she's very much looking elsewhere for growth.

TRY AND COPY THAT. Larry Zimmerman, CFO of Xerox (XRX

), joined the copier giant in 2002, at a time when most accountants would have wanted to run away. Xerox's accounting was being investigated by the Securities & Exchange Commission. The company was losing money. And its debt was so high, the dreaded "b" word -- bankruptcy -- came up.

Zimmerman, who had already gone through some tough times at IBM (IBM

), didn't let the difficulties get him down. "The stress levels are the people, not the situation," he tells BusinessWeek Online. "If I worked at a gas station, I'd be stressed. I've enjoyed every day of [working at Xerox]."

Now that the tide has turned for Xerox, he enjoys it even more. The company is a Wall Street favorite again, having just beat analysts' earnings estimates. On Jan. 26, rating service Standard & Poor's revised its outlook on the outfit from negative to stable. "Our focus has changed to more upbeat things," says Zimmerman. Instead of making sure Xerox doesn't run out of cash, he can now visit customers and Xerox's satellite offices. Beats pumping gas, for sure!

EXIT AND QUESTIONS. To hear Michael Klayko tell it, he practically ran storage maker Brocade (BRCD

) for years before he was actually appointed to its CEO post on Jan. 24 (Klayko was most recently the company's VP of worldwide sales). "I've had my fingerprints all over the strategy," he says, adding that he had been talking with former CEO Greg Reyes about succeeding him for years. The CEO replacement simply coincided with the completion of an internal audit and the restatement of the company's results, Klayko says. Hmmm.

Klayko doesn't plan any changes to the company's direction, he says. This year, Brocade will unleash a slew of new products that will make rivals Cisco (CSCO

) and McData (MCDTA

) shake in their shoes, he boasts.

"We're going to reset the bar," Klayko says. Yeah, but why exactly did Reyes, who will remain a company director and advisor, have to go -- and why now? Reyes was traveling and "not available for comment," a spokeswoman said via e-mail, adding that he will "still add great value in this new role." Of course.

"ORWELLIAN DOUBLESPEAK." Financier George Soros stopped updating his anti-Bush site, GeorgeSoros.com, after President George W. Bush was re-elected in early November. Soros was said to have gone on extended vacation to Europe. But now he's back online, apparently unable to remain silent after hearing the President's recent controversial inaugural address. On Jan. 26, Soros posted a new article to his site, accusing the Administration of "Orwellian doublespeak" and asserting that "America cannot do whatever it wants." Soros is back, indeed -- with a vengeance! Kharif is a writer for BusinessWeek Online in Portland, Ore.


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