Haworth CEO Has Global Expertise

July 22, 2005
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HOLLAND — While it is not likely to change the direction of the $1.2-billion commercial furniture manufacturer, Dick Haworth’s selection last week of Haworth North America COO Franco Bianchi to succeed him as president and CEO did further emphasize the 57-year-old company’s growing global presence.

“We have huge roots here in West Michigan and North America,” Bianchi said. “But we are the fastest growing company in our industry in Asia and among the leaders in Europe

“The new leaders — the CEO and every portion of the management team — need to have a very strong international awareness and a global perspective to help us leverage this flat and flatter world.”

According to Bianchi, the next few years will prove “if I actually have that.”

A native of Bologna, Italy, Bianchi joined Haworth in 1992 with the acquisition of Italian furniture company Castelli. Before his appointment last year as COO of North America, he served as general manager of Haworth Italy, vice president for finance for Haworth North America, and global vice president of product line management and marketing.

In his year as COO in North America, Bianchi led the corporation’s largest division and was instrumental in the creation and deployment of Haworth’s strategy of adaptable workspaces, designed performance and global leverage.

He recently led the launch of several new products — including Enclose movable walls, Compose panel systems and the Zody chair at NeoCon this year — as well as the acquisition of SMED International and InterfaceAR.

“This is not a real big surprise,” said office furniture industry analyst Mike Dunlap of Michael A. Dunlap & Associates in West Olive. “If there is a surprise, it’s that it took as long as it did.”

Dunlap believes that Bianchi has been the likely choice for CEO since Robert Krasa’s abrupt departure last year, only weeks after Bianchi’s appointment as COO North America.

“These eight or nine months gave him some more time to get his feet wet with it,” Dunlap said. “It was a natural progression.”

Dunlap doesn’t believe the leadership change will alter the direction of the company, a sentiment shared by Bianchi.

“We’ll continue in the same direction: better, leaner, simpler, with more growth and more profit,” he said. “In many ways, the industry is helping us. The company is growing very well aligned with its fastest growing competitors. Most of that growth will be here in West Michigan. We’ll continue to grow through integrating architecture and furniture, and continue to expand globally in North America, in Asia and in Europe.”

Dick Haworth assumed CEO duties last August following Krasa’s departure. Krasa had been appointed CEO in 2003, after a little more than a year with the company.

The son of founder G.W. Haworth, Dick Haworth previously served as CEO from 1976 to 1997. His successor at that time, Gerald Johanneson, was the first non-family member to run the company.

Haworth will remain chairman.    

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