Russ Huffer, Apogee Chairman and CEO, to Retire Immediately Upon Naming a Successor
January 20, 2011
Minneapolis-based Apogee Enterprises Inc. announced late yesterday on January 19 that chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) Russell Huffer will retire, pending the naming of a successor. The board of directors of Apogee will immediately initiate a national search for his successor. Huffer will remain CEO until the search is completed.
Huffer, 61, is also stepping down from his position as chairman, effective immediately. The board has named current director Bernard P. Aldrich to replace Huffer as non-executive chairman. Huffer will continue to serve on the board of directors until a new CEO is named.
Aldrich, a member of Apogee’s board of directors since 1999, is the retired chief executive officer and president of Rimage Co., a publicly held designer and manufacturer of workflow integrated digital publishing solutions. He has also served as chair of Apogee’s compensation committee and as a member of its nominating and corporate governance committee. Aldrich, 61, retired from Rimage in 2009 after 12 years as president and CEO. He has 13 years of public company operational experience and 18 years of private company financial management experience.
Huffer was elected Apogee chairman in June 1999, after having been elected president and CEO in January 1998. He joined Apogee in 1986 as vice president and general manager of Viracon, Apogee’s largest subsidiary. Before joining Apogee, Huffer spent six years in various management positions with Guardian Industries’ coatings, float glass and glass fabrication divisions. Previous to that, he spent two years as a senior designer at Ford Motor Co. and seven years in the U.S. Air Force.
During Huffer’s time as Apogee CEO, on a comparable basis, revenues in the company’s core business rose significantly, from approximately $580 million in his first fiscal year as CEO to more than $925 million at their height in 2009. He also was responsible for realignment of the company’s business strategy and generating more than $600 million of cash flow from operations, during his tenure as CEO. This has moved the company from high debt to net cash, while enabling significant investment levels.
However, Apogee’s construction-related segments have struggled during the downturn. In the company’s third quarter 2011 fiscal report, the company noted architectural segment revenues declined 21 percent, with an operating loss of $8.4 million. Backlog ended at $165.7 million, compared to $193.0 million at the end of the second quarter and $246.4 million at the end of the prior-year period.
While the news of Huffer’s retirement may come as a surprise for some in the industry, some say it’s simply not the right time for him to do so.
“He’s too young to retire,” says Bill Stone, president of Louisville Plate Glass. “A guy as sharp as he is needs to stay in the industry. I admire him and what he’s done with his company.”
Stone adds, “He’s a very admirable executive.”
Bob Lawrence, president of Craftsman-Cristacurva in Houston, also says Huffer has made significant contributions to the industry.
“He’s always been an icon in the industry,” says Lawrence. “Under his direction Viracon established benchmarks of service and quality.”
He adds, “I suspect Viracon will miss him and I wish him the best.”
Christine Shaffer, Viracon’s director of marketing agrees.
“Russ will leave a legacy on many fronts. To the industry I believe his legacy is on how he embraced new science and technology and infused a passion for the future of architectural glass. Russ is responsible for much of the fundamental science that drives our industry. He has worked directly on three patented low-E coatings and developed reflective high-performance glass coatings, and he continued his focus on product development and developing a culture of innovation throughout his tenure.”
She continues, “His legacy within Apogee is the strength of the company’s current position in all he’s done to institute new efficiencies, build a talented management team, and the strategic realignment of the company as a specialty glass manufacturer for commercial construction and framing art.
“Looking forward, our challenge will be to find an individual to match Russ’ selfless dedication, talent and extreme passion for the industry and the company.”