Meet The InLaws

June 19, 2002
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All good families eventually welcome the in-laws into the fold, and Alticor Corp. is no exception.

The parent company of Amway Corp. last week announced that JudsonGreen, president and CEO of Navigation Technologies Corp. and former chairman of Walt Disney Attractions, EmmanuelKampouris, former chairman, president and CEO of American Standard Companies, and JamesMcClung, senior vice president of FMC Corp., have joined eight DeVos and Van Andel family members on the board of directors. It’s the first time in the company’s 42-year history that “outsiders” (non-family members) have been able to offer their expertise at the board level.

Some may see that as a sign of Alticor’s “growing up.” Others likely will see the decision as a signal of change in the business’s tightly knit family leadership structure, one that may allow further exploration into taking the company public.

That may be an especially appealing venture now that the cuts and restructuring of the past 24 months to 36 months are starting to pay off.

After declining or, at best, flat sales over the past two years, Alticor is reporting a sales increase of nearly 7 percent, to $4.1 billion, for the fiscal year completed Aug. 31.

“When we launched Alticor last year, we said that we were building a leaner, more competitive global company,” said Chairman SteveVanAndel. “We wanted to cut costs and maintain our momentum in key markets — and this year’s results show we were able to do both.”

So while the company becomes leaner and meaner — and presumably more profitable — it also becomes more attractive to potential suitors. The coffee klatch crew insists the independent components of Alticor are meant to be sold.

Installing non-family board members who are seasoned veterans in global business would be a first step in that direction.

Or, maybe it just makes good business sense.

“These changes are port of our continuing efforts to bring valuable new insight and ideas to this company,” said President DickDeVos. “The board is looking forward to our new directors’ input and support as we continue to evolve and build this enterprise.”

  • If you are thinking about planting that tree and trimming your topiary, you might want to hold off — other businesses are.

RobNelson, president of the Grand Rapids Nursery and Landscape Association (GRNLA) and owner of Greensward Landscaping, told the Business Journal that with the recent terror attacks and the fall in the economy, many people are holding off on landscape projects.

“Everyone is a little tentative with the current situation the economy is in,” Nelson said. “With the recession, everyone is hoping for a rebound.”

While landscaping is a seasonal business and most of the planning and work takes place during a 9-month period, Nelson said the industry may expect to feel it after the season comes to a close and new customers begin to hold off on work to be performed in the spring.

“We have had some clients who have been downsized on their job or have lost their job and have had to discontinue service,” Nelson said. “But most of our projects have been sold ahead of time and so most of them are progressing as planned.”

For now, Nelson said it is a wait-and-see game. “We haven’t been hit right now because of the season but we are sure there might be a ripple effect when spring comes around and businesses and residential homes are not looking to landscape.”

  • Williams Distributing President James Williams is bullish about 2002. The local business just expanded with the grand opening of a design center in Wyoming. A short conversation with Williams last week revealed he was en route to Chicago on a buying trip with no plan to abbreviate the purchases for West Michigan selection.

  • No bull: There are times when even the most seasoned journalists are brought to a complete halt — kind of like driving into the side of a cement plant. That’s what happened last week when Cindy Miranti, research biochemistat theVan Andel Institute, detailed some of the ammunition she uses in her team’s fight against the form of cancer called melanoma.

Melanoma, a killer if not caught early, basically is a wildly out-of-control melanocyte, the cell that gives human skin its color.

And one tactic in the battle with melanoma involves culturing healthy melanocytes and submitting them over long months and years to various tortures to determine which influences send them out of control.

The battle uses up lots and lots of melanocytes. But fortunately an ample supply always is available next door at Spectrum Health Butterworth Campus — from its neonatal unit, as a matter of fact.

Now melanocytes are found in all human skin.

And let’s just let it go at that, except to say that, through VAI, almost every newborn baby boy does his, um, bit in the war against cancer.

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