PARIS - Valeo Chairman Noel Goutard said he will leave his job at the end of next year. The move follows an earlier announcement that Valeo had appointed Alstom executive Andre Navarri, as chief operating officer.
Goutard, 67, said he decided to quit against the wishes of the Valeo board. However he is likely to keep his seat on the board for an extra six-year term.
Navarri, 47, a graduate engineer from Ecole Centrale de Paris, will become Goutard's second-in-command and is the leading candidate to replace him. He has spent most of his career with Alstom, the French-English electrical engineering, railway and shipbuilding group that builds the TGV high-speed train. 'He has strong leadership qualities and he re-engineered the transport division remarkably,' said an Alstom source.
The search for a new chief operating officer took six months, said one Valeo executive. 'Goutard has found the right man - he is very satisfied with his choice, and he wants the new structure to succeed,' he said.
Speculation about Goutard's successor has been circulating since 1997, when Goutard appointed two group senior vice presidents, Bernard de Monseignat and Thierry Morin, both 45. He put Monseignat and Morin respectively in charge of corporate strategy and finance.
Born in 1931, Goutard was widely expected to be reappointed chairman for another three years at Valeo's annual shareholder meeting on 25 May. Valeo's statutory rules allow the chairman to continue working to the age of 70.
Since joining Valeo in 1987, Goutard has transformed the supplier from an under-performing company dependent on French automakers into one of the 10 largest suppliers in the world. Valeo profits more than doubled from 1993 to 1998 to FF1.7 billion (euro 257 million, $275 million). After being heavily dependent on French customers, sales in France now account for less than 25 percent of the total . North America accounts for 30 percent, following the $1.7 billion purchase of ITT Automotive Electrical Systems in June 1998.
General Motors and DaimlerChrysler are now Valeo's largest customers. Valeo is one of only two French suppliers to appear in the list of the top 20 global suppliers. The other is Michelin.