Baumgardner Leaves Donnelly

September 12, 2003
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HOLLAND — Business is going well, the company has been smoothly rolled into its parent corporation and there is a strong management team in place.

So, after 34 years with the former Donnelly Corp. that he helped grow into a global player in the automotive supply industry, Dwane Baumgardner decided it was time to move on.

“The sun, moon and stars are aligned,” said Baumgardner, who quietly retired Sept. 5 as vice chairman of Holland-based Magna Donnelly Corp., a position that was preceded by nearly two decades at the helm of the former Donnelly Corp.

“Things are going very well and it seemed like a good time,” Baumgardner said. “The organization is on solid ground and made a good transition.”

Baumgardner, 63, presided over Donnelly Corp. during a period of strong growth and often turbulent and increasingly challenging times for the industry that over the past decade forced automotive suppliers to bulk up and become global players.

He joined the former Donnelly Corp. in 1969 as manager of research and development, then later became vice president of technology and went on to serve as Donnelly’s top executive.

After serving as president and chief operating officer of Donnelly Corp. from 1980-1983 he was named chief executive officer in 1983. Donnelly directors added the chairmanship to his responsibilities in 1986.

Baumgardner led the company until shortly after Donnelly’s sale to auto-supply giant Magna International in 2002.

During Baumgardner’s tenure as chairman and CEO — one of the longest during that time among chief executives at public corporations based in West Michigan — Donnelly Corp. grew from annual sales of $35 million to $930 million.

“It’s been great to be part of that,” said Baumgardner, whose retirement came with no public announcement or fanfare outside of the company.

During his watch, Donnelly also became a publicly held company in 1988 and was named “One of the Best Companies to Work for in America” for its participatory management style. It expanded and invested heavily in Europe and the formation of joint ventures during the 1990s to transform Donnelly into a global automotive supplier.

The push into Europe, however, did bring with it certain difficulties and pressures on the company, and some of the joint ventures didn’t pan out as hoped.

When Donnelly, a producer of automotive mirrors, window systems and door handles, was sold last year to Aurora, Ontario-based Magna International in a $415 million stock-and-debt deal, Baumgardner became chief executive of the resulting subsidiary, Magna Donnelly. He stepped aside to become vice chairman in late 2002 when Magna International hired Carlos Mazzorin, the former chief procurement officer at Ford Motor Co., as chief executive officer for Magna Donnelly.

Mazzorin credits Baumgardner with helping to guide the smooth transition of Donnelly Corp. into Magna International and the formation of Magna Donnelly, the world’s largest maker of automotive mirrors, as well as his own move into the CEO’s position.

Baumgardner, Mazzorin said, made the period of transition “as easy as possible.”

“He’s done a superb job,” Mazzorin said. “He was extremely supportive.”

Baumgardner plans to remain in Holland, travel to “see parts of the U.S. I’ve never set foot on but have flown over,” and spend more time with his family. He planned all along to retire from Magna Donnelly after the transition and, after watching the management team evolve, concluded this summer that the timing was right, he said.

“I just feel very good with the program that’s been made and I feel very comfortable in the future of the company,” he said.       

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