Archive for November, 2005

Giving it a ‘Whirl’

November 30, 2005
Giving it a ‘Whirl’
Date November 30, 2005
Section(s) Columnists
By Sen. Dennis Black  
Location, location, location! I heard that again a couple of weeks ago while speaking to a business forum in Altoona, where an Altoona businessman commented about the prime location of the Altoona-Newton corridor in regard to population and business expansion. Along with Jasper, my Senate district covers eastern Polk County and 6,000 acres inside the city of Des Moines, so I spend considerable time in Altoona, Mitchellville, Bondurant and Runnels. Traveling east from there, I see the expansion of housing into western Jasper County. Most of this was anticipated, as the expansion westward into Dallas County from Des Moines has become crowded with miles and miles of “cookie-cutter” homes. Those seeking more open spaces are moving into Jasper and commuting to their jobs in Des Moines.

During the forum, questions were asked about the continued availability of state dollars in programs designed to initiate economic development. The truth is … yes, because there are those who believe that this incentive creates success. Surely it helps, but there are few guarantees in entrepreneurial risk. I know of several failed projects during the past decade where sponsors virtually guaranteed success. I quickly learned that government should not get involved in doing those things that private enterprise can do better. Untold millions of state dollars have gone to projects that just did not make it, such as a Laser Building at the University of Iowa and nearly a half-billion dollars to a statewide fiber-optic system that is now antiquated. I supported the U. of I. Laser Building., but adamantly opposed the state ownership of the statewide fiber-optic network, calling it “a big black hole, that will consume a half-billion dollars from other critical needs during the decade to come.” Although it took more than a decade, the state is now approaching the half-billion dollar mark in combined construction, operations and maintenance. Frankly, private enterprise isn’t even interested in acquiring it from the state, for technological advances far surpass the days of fiber-optic transmission!

Achieving economic growth in a community commences when someone brings forth an idea on products, services or opportunities. Once the idea reaches critical mass — where a person or group of people believe it will work, then the process moves on to evaluating market demand, securing a funding stream, detailed planning, and finally, implementation. That’s the American way — believing in some endeavor so strongly, that you are willing to take the personal risk to make it happen. That’s how we ended up with Maytag in Newton, along with The Vernon Company, Thombert Inc., Keystone Laboratories, Meisner Electric and other local ingenuity in small business and industry creation that provide the jobs that make us what we are.

A thriving community is one that works together; one justifiably inter-dependent, where the needs of the private sector are met with a talented and productive workforce, and the laboring men and women rewarded with livable wages, benefits and job satisfaction. Fairness in tax policy is essential for long-term commitment of any business, and government cannot be overly restrictive with regulations and expect business to succeed.

Not every business endeavor works. Fred Maytag was undoubtedly discouraged when some of his ideas didn’t jell. Several items, including automobiles and farm implements, just didn’t seem to catch on. However, his washing machine did, and surely he would be amazed to know his humble beginnings became one of the top 500 industries in America.

On a related topic, a suggestion was made in Monday’s Des Moines Register, that officials should approach Whirlpool for consideration of Newton as the logical location for their corporate headquarters. I can attest to the fact that this proposal was tendered months ago and also is now being pursued with greater vigor in view of the feds’ acceptance of the buy-out plan. Gov. Vilsack was the first to initiate the appropriate contact with corporate leadership last spring when Whirlpool entered the picture. Congressman Boswell, Rep. Bell and I have taken a lesser role in the proposal, whereas Mayor Allen has had frequent and specific dialogue with the corporate leadership suggesting consideration of the very thing that was editorialized in Monday’s paper.

A month ago I visited Benton Harbor, Mich., just to assess the community in which the new appliance behemoth was headquartered. Although the Whirlpool campus is well groomed and the buildings well cared for, I was rather taken aback by the community itself. Newton can easily compete, if only given the chance. Unknown to me at the time, Dave Aldridge also was visiting Benton Harbor on the very day of my arrival.

I have yet to hear back from Whirlpool CEO Jeff Fettig, to whom I made the case in a letter that Iowa has much to offer with its safe communities, great educational institutions, affordable housing, talented workforce and great varieties of leisure time opportunities. I’m convinced the bottom-line of that corporation would well be enhanced by the preservation of “Washer City” for corporate and manufacturing needs. I urged Mr. Fettig to “come check us out … to give Newton a ‘Whirl.'”

Questions or comments? Write Box 1271, Newton, 50208; or e-mail


Hoover to eliminate production line, may cut 275 jobs

November 25, 2005
Hoover to eliminate production line, may cut 275 jobs
Date November 25, 2005
Section(s) Local News
NORTH CANTON, Ohio (AP) — A Hoover Co. production line that makes machines used to clean floors and carpets will shut down, likely eliminating 275 jobs by year end as the company’s parent shifts work to lower cost plants.

The Eagle line’s injection molding machines will go to El Paso, Texas, with final assembly of the floor cleaning extractors in Juarez, Mexico, said Jim Repace, president of Local 1985 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The machines put water and cleaning liquid onto carpet or hard floors and sucks dirt and the water back into a container.

The North Canton plant has about 1,075 hourly workers.

With the loss of the Eagle line, the plant still will produce some steam vacuums, canister vacuum cleaners, commercial uprights and a small floor scrubber and polisher.

“This is a big plant. It’s difficult to keep a plant in operation when you keep moving things out,” Repace said.

The plant employed about 1,500 hourly workers as recently as 2003.

The announcement is the latest in a series of blows for Hoover in North Canton since then.

In late 2003, union workers agreed to concessions in return for an extended contract through 2008. By June 2004, there were under 1,200 hourly workers when Maytag announced it was moving Hoover’s headquarters to Iowa and laying off about 500 white-collar workers.

A court-appointed arbitrator, Paul F. Gerhart, ruled that the product line can be moved, but the ruling will be appealed in federal court, Repace said Tuesday.

John Daggett, spokeswoman for Hoover parent Maytag Corp., based in of Newton, Iowa said Wednesday the company expects to start the line up again in its new locations early next year. He said that will mean a substantial reduction of jobs in North Canton, but he would not say how many.

The union contends removal of the line violates language in its contract prohibiting outsourcing.

Maytag began moving injection-molding machines in August. In early September, the union went to federal court, seeking an order to stop it. Maytag agreed not to remove any molds or tooling and the issue was turned over to an arbitrator.

About two years ago, the union workers agreed to concessions to keep jobs in North Canton and extended a contract through 2008.

Maytag is being bought by rival Whirlpool Corp., Benton Harbor, Mich. Maytag shareholders are to vote on the deal Dec. 22.

Life aftr Maytag: Former workers following new paths

November 23, 2005
Life after Maytag: Former workers following new paths, business opportunities, personal passions
Date November 23, 2005
Section(s) Local News


There’s no question Maytag has been the premier employer in the area for generations. Landing a job there meant employment security, great pay, benefits and a sound retirement, plus a chance to work on a national playing level.

When Maytag asked someone to come aboard, few turned it down.

“It’s hard to say no to what’s definitely the premier job for the area,” said Mark Larson, who for 15 years worked in plant engineering at Maytag after being plucked from his draftsman position at a Grinnell firm.

Maytag‘s premier employment status is pretty simple to understand. You don’t often find a Fortune 500 corporation doing more than $4 billion in sales in a rural county-seat town of 16,000 people. Besides Maytag, Prudential is the only other Fortune 500 company in the whole state.

“There are not many jobs like this in Iowa,” said Kristi Lafrenz, who worked in marketing at Maytag for 15 years. “I felt lucky.”

Over the last few years, however, that status began to ebb. As the appliance maker’s fortunes slipped, it reacted by jettisoning employees in wave after wave of downsizing initiatives. In 2004 Maytag announced a restructuring endeavor that would eliminate 20 percent of its salaried workforce with hundreds and hundreds of jobs lost at its Newton headquarters. Production jobs in Newton also have been hit with round after round of layoffs bringing employment levels to just over a third of what they were a few years back. Maytag won’t say, but anecdotal evidence suggests as many as 2,000 jobs have been lost since 2001 at Maytag operations in Newton.

And now Maytag employees await shareholder and regulatory approval for rival Whirlpool’s $2.7 billion takeover offer. If completed as planned early next year, some suggest that all Maytag operations in Newton will close, bringing to an end Newton’s reign as the “Washing Machine Capital of the World.”

So, what’s life like after Maytag? What have those who’ve already left done and what can those who may find themselves in the same boat expect and learn from those who’ve gone ahead? Here are their stories.

New Paths

Larson, the former Grinnell draftsman, was scared to death as a member of the Class of 2003, a sardonic title some former Maytagers have tagged themselves after being forced out of the company. He didn’t see it coming.

“It scared me,” he said. “I got to work not knowing. How was I going to make up that income and benefits?”

Wayne Johnson’s feelings were hurt when a Maytag official tapped him on the shoulder and showed him the door during the first wave of downsizing in October 2001. After giving more than 12 years to the company, it was hard to come to terms with the fact that the work he had been doing was not appreciated, he said.

Mark Monroe held a fair amount of anger after being let go last year after 20 years with Maytag. But at least the company waited until the day after he returned to work after chaperoning his son’s high school band trip to New York City, he says with a hint of animosity. Two other chaperones on the trip were asked to leave the same day.

Larson’s fear of unemployment didn’t last long. Four days after leaving the corporate fold he was offered a position with a big contracting firm. But something told him to go slow.

“I didn’t want to get trapped into something I didn’t like,” he said. “I had a feeling that I didn’t want someone having that much control. I didn’t want that tap on the shoulder again.”

So he took his time. The severance package Maytag provided allowed him to spend the whole summer with his daughter, even taking a month-long trip to the Black Hills.

“I took some time to think what I wanted to do,” he said.

With his building plans background, he thought he might enjoy selling the finished product. He took his real estate exam and began selling homes at a local firm. But the divorced father found that raising his daughter on a straight commission was tough work. He took a draftsman job at an area firm, but he still wasn’t comfortable. Then he received a call from Geri Doyle, who along with Caren DeVoe was opening a new Iowa Realty office in town. They needed someone to handle the detail work at the new firm and thought he might be interested.

“There’s kind of an underground network of people looking out for us,” Larson said from his office at Doyle and DeVoe Realty in Newton.

The bustling real estate office atmosphere suits him fine.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t say I miss the income and benefits,” he said. “But I wanted to look for something smaller, more close knit. I don’t want to be a number. I enjoy what I’m doing here. Money isn’t everything. Leaving Maytag enabled me to gain some introspection on what’s important in life.”


Although Johnson’s feelings were hurt when Maytag let him go, in hindsight he says it was the right thing at the right time.

“I was at a point in my life where I was reassessing my situation,” he said. “I knew I was not happy where I was at.”

Johnson also was pragmatic about his departure.

“I understood we had a business arrangement just like any other supplier,” he said. “I quit taking it personally in a relatively short time. Maytag did everything for me they said they would do. The guy who told me I was gone I still consider to be a friend.”

That pragmatism led Johnson quickly toward his new career path. He’d always had an interest in financial planning, and the separation gave him the freedom to pursue that arena. Four months after being let go he began working from his home as an independent financial advisor affiliated with Waddell & Reed Financial Services. Early next year, he’ll finish his fourth year in the business.

“I like running my own business,” he said. “Some days I’d like the security of a paycheck, but there’s a variability now that wasn’t there before. I’m happier now than I was then and I’m better off than if I was still there. My business continues to expand and I can run it the way I feel comfortable with. I can focus on clients, rather than managers, because that’s what’s really important. In your own business, security is the choices you get to make.”


Monroe also had been frustrated in his position at Maytag and had been considering leaving. Still, he was caught off guard when he was downsized out of the corporation early last summer.

And, like Johnson, he realized it wasn’t anything he did or didn’t do that earmarked him for elimination.

“It wasn’t about me,” he said. “They eliminated positions.”

But Maytag was all he really ever knew, starting there fresh out of Oklahoma State in the mid 1980s. Now he was faced with something new, how to go about looking for a job.

With his experience in computer programming, he knew he could quickly catch on with a Des Moines insurance company.

“But then I remembered why I didn’t want just to be a programmer,” Larson said. “Writing accounting programs is boring.”

So he looked around, wanting to stay in Newton while his children finished school and remaining among long-time friends, many of whom also were facing career path interruptions.

With financial assistance through provisions in the North America Free Trade Agreement, Monroe began working toward his doctorate degree at Iowa State University in Ames with a focus on human/computer interaction. At the same time he found an adjunct professor position at William Penn College in Oskaloosa. This fall he began a full-time position at Marshalltown Community College as an assistant professor of mathematics and computer science. He teaches two statistics courses, two general math courses and his favorite, a Web design and programming course.

Monroe remains bittersweet a year after his departure from Maytag.

“I was very stressed and angry,” he said. “I wasn’t happy. I’m a lot happier now, and I think my wife would agree.”

Business Opportunities

Not everyone leaving Maytag has been tapped on the shoulder. Some have chosen to leave the Fortune 500 company to start their own endeavors armed with the skill sets the corporation has fostered during their stays.

Such is the case for two former Maytag marketers, Kristi Lafrenz and Jill Hair, who left this summer to start their own company, “spark 2, Marketing Minds for Hire.”

Both Newton women have extensive marketing backgrounds. Lafrenz spent 15 years at Maytag in a variety of sales and brand management functions. Hair spent five years at Maytag before leaving to do freelance work and a stint at Blue Cross. She rejoined Maytag two years ago where the pair were reunited in Maytag‘s recently created strategic initiative group. It was there that the entrepreneurial spirit bit.

Maytag marketing’s strategic initiative unit was charged with creating, constructing and marketing new lines of products outside the typical sphere of home appliances, like the Maytag Skybox personal beverage dispenser, an immediate hit with Sunday afternoon TV football jocks and hosts of Wednesday night poker games.

“It was like being an entrepreneur within a large corporation,” Lafrenz said. “It planted the seed.”

Lafrenz and Hair also say they are following a growing trend among women who are leaving the corporate world to start their own businesses. As the mothers of young children, the two felt they would be able to have the flexibility of being around when their children needed them at the same time continuing their professional aspirations.

“It lets us ensure that we have the flexibility to be there for the kids,” Hair said.

“It lets us be the master of our own world,” Lafrenz compliments her partner’s statement.

Their goal is to create a virtual network of marketing expertise. The professional contacts they’ve made working in the corporate world will enable them to find and fit the particular experts to any client’s need.

“We’re forming a consortium of freelancers, many of them women who have left the corporate world,” Lafrenz said. “We’ll use different groups for different projects, a virtual agency, to help our clients’ strategic needs.”

“We’ll find the best fit for the customer,” Hair adds to her partners assessment.


Don Fisher is the epitome of what on-the-job Maytag training can lead to.

Seventeen years ago, the Newton native followed his grandfather’s footsteps and walked into the sheet metal shop at Maytag Plant 2. But it was his move to the corporation’s research and development model shop a couple of years later that eventually paved the way to the business success he enjoys today.

In research and development, Fisher was trained to take an engineer’s theoretical machine concept and turn it into a finished product prototype. Using state-of-the art injection mold and computer numerical control equipment, he helped Maytag engineers master the designs for the corporation’s continuous stream of new products. For the next 10 years, Fisher worked on the designs for Maytag‘s new platforms, including its state-of-the-art horizontal axis washing machine, Neptune.

“I was just an old woodworker when I started, but they trained me,” Fisher said.

But by the late 1990s Fisher was growing anxious. Then CEO Lloyd Ward was talking strongly about putting Maytag‘s research and development in a Chinese locale.

“I decided I better start looking for something else to do,” Fisher said.

Fisher put together the funds necessary to buy some used injection mold and CNC equipment. He opened his own prototype parts company, Product Development Partners, but continued to work for Maytag, moonlighting at his new company on the side.

For the next several months, Fisher weighed the pros and cons of striking out on his own. First on his list of concerns was the pay and benefits Maytag offered.

“I was a nervous wreck,” he said. “I thought I would retire there.”

In February 2000, Fisher jumped and made the leap to life after Maytag. Five years later he says he made the right choice.

“I couldn’t continue to do both jobs,” he said. “I had to make the decision of whether to stay or go. I decided to control my destiny.”

Today Fisher makes prototype products for a variety of national manufacturers. He continues to expand his client base and has expanded his operation, now employing three full-time workers and one part-time employee.

Ironically, Fisher has been able to offer employment sanctuary to two former co-workers who were walked out of the Maytag R &D model shop last year. Mike Urias spent 28 years at Maytag before being let go last June while Kevin Shipley had marked more than 11 years when his position was eliminated. Both men come from families with generational ties to Maytag. And both are appreciative of the opportunity to continue with the work they’ve enjoyed.

“Don has offered us the opportunity to do the same type of work here,” Shipley said. “Karma sometimes does great things.”


King joined Maytag in November 1979 and for the next 11 years provided environmental analysis on the by-products emanating from production operations at Maytag Plant 2. In the late 1980s, however, he saw an opportunity to establish a business that would meet the growing environmental analysis needs of individuals, businesses and government operations around the state and beyond.

“A lot of my friends were checking my sanity, but it was one of those things that come along once during a career,” he said. “Either you make a go of it or you’re left wondering.”

King gathered the requisite financing to get the operation off the ground. He opened his doors in January 1990 moonlighting as the sole employee at his new Keystone Laboratories — named after his favorite skiing locale in Colorado — while continuing his work at Maytag. Six months later, he left Maytag to focus full time on his fledgling business.

Fifteen years later, although not all a bed of roses, his business idea has proved successful. He currently owns three environmental laboratories in Newton, Waterloo and Kansas City, employing a total of 42 people, 32 of whom are based in Newton. He’s conducted environmental testing projects all over North America to the Virgin Islands, from Anchorage, Alaska to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

“I’ve been real fortunate and I’m very thankful,” he said. “I was a chemist who had to learn how to run a business.”

Personal passions

Most of the people who have been let go from Maytag have received the perfunctory “tap on the shoulder.” Doug Gibson did the tapping.

With 23 years in at Maytag, Gibson had seen the work environment change. Instead of the days when the going to work created a sense of excitement and movement, round after round after round of layoffs had taken its toll. He often dreaded the start of a new work week, finally realizing why he’d become so grouchy on Sunday nights.

Maytag used to be a great place to work,”Gibson said. “Now you’re just waiting for your turn.”

By late 2004, Gibson realized he would not likely be retiring from Maytag. That meant he would need to find something else to do. His youngest child had just left for college so the time felt right to try something new.

As an electrical engineer, one might think Gibson would opt to move into something he knew well. But he’d had enough of the conveyor controls and power lines that were his life at Maytag.

“I went to my boss and said if there was going to be another ‘double E’ position eliminated, make it me,” Gibson said.

Boom. A few weeks later he was gone.

When not working at Maytag, Gibson loved to backpack. He’d taken hiking trips to Colorado, Wyoming, Arkansas and haunted the Yellow River Forest area of northeast Iowa for years. So, he thought, why not turn his avocation into his vocation.

With the assistance of NAFTA money, Gibson is now taking classwork at Iowa State on a bachelor’s degree in animal ecology with an ecology option. He’s involved in a graduate level Global Information Systems project where he’s helping plot prairie remnants across the state. A year from now, he should be close to completing his degree with hopes of securing a position in county conservation or with the Department of Natural Resources. But before he begins any new assignment, he’s going to do something he’s never had the time to do before, walk the Appalachian Trail.

“I feel like I’m moving forward toward something,” Gibson said. “I’m glad I went to my boss. I haven’t regretted it yet. But be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.”

And, he notes with a smile, the Sunday evening tone in the Gibson household has improved dramatically.


If anyone exemplifies the success and satisfaction of following one’s passion, it’s Amy Doerring.

For 17 years, the last 10 at Maytag in Newton, Doerring was immersed in the corporate world of information technology. But now, more than three years after being let go by Maytag, she’s traded her megabytes for megapixels as her photography studio continues to grow.

“I had an interest in photography for a long time and now I had the opportunity to do what I wanted,” she said. “But I didn’t know if I had the courage to do it.”

With strong support from friends and family — she was sent congratulatory plant arrangements upon her departure from Maytag in March 2002 — she pulled up her boot straps and went to work. That summer, she set up a sales booth as part of Newton’s annual Ridiculous Day sale and lined up several senior picture portrait sessions. The rest is history.

Today she operates Amy Doerring Photography out of a recently renovated third floor studio at her home. Her client list has grown to include regular customers from all over Iowa, as well as Minnesota and Nebraska.

And Doerring’s is not the typical studio photography work. As often as not, you’ll find her at shooting sessions at some of her favorite light-meets-textured-walls spots around town, such as near the old railroad depot and the former Jasper County Jail building.

“My tag line is ‘still photography, moving images.'” she said. “That’s what I want to create.”

She credits bringing the creative process to her photography work from her continued study of art history. Seeing how the great artists have used light and shadows to create mood and effect is something she continuously tries to improve upon in her photography work.

“I want to get better and better,” she said.

Another important aspect of her efforts go to what she calls her “heart’s work.” She recently completed a photo montage of a young boy stricken with a brain tumor and has helped out Annie Wignall’s Care Bags program.

“It allows me to give something back,” she said.

Looking back, Doerring can better see what her departure from Maytag has meant.

“It gave me wings so I could fly,” she said.

It’s sad and silly at the same time

November 23, 2005
It’s sad and silly at the same time
Date November 23, 2005
Section(s) Opinion
To the Editor:

The latest news to come out of the Maytag Corporation is that executives are to be getting bonuses based on their salary and the corporate performance.

In the constant public relations image that Chairman and CEO Ralph Hake projects, he decries how the Newton facility is the most expensive. I think that most of us can now see where the expense in Newton really is. But you have to give Ralph credit for one thing, he certainly lives up to his title: He definitely has become a Critically Expensive Officer. I can’t wait until, in our continual cost cutting efforts, we outsource Ralph for a CEO that signs on for $75,000 a year. Talk about your productivity enhancement!

I have proudly worked for the Maytag Corporation for 20 years now and have made some fantastic friends in both production and management. It has been our heritage to produce the finest laundry equipment in the world. Our workforce has always been proud of our brands and have always proved worthy of the wages and benefits provided to us.

This kind of production takes its toll on everyone. I don’t know of many of my friends that have not suffered some sort of job related injury requiring some type of surgical procedure. It’s the price you pay for working long hours in repetitive work and most of us take it as a part of the job.

It seems as though the only injury to be incurred by this current executive team will be hernia surgery from carrying their pay home.

I believe in an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. But where is the honesty when you tell a unionized workforce that they receive too much compensation and benefits for the work they do and then turn around and pay people the equivalent to five workers pay for just being on the payroll, especially during what has been described by most as “tough times at Maytag?” Yes, it’s sad, but so comical that we have come around to this.

If you drive by the Newton Union Cemetery some evening and see a glow coming from the Maytag mausoleum, don’t be concerned. It’s just friction from Fred spinning in his grave.

Stephen C. “Newt” Rodgers


Incentive bonuses leave reader shaking his head

November 23, 2005
Incentive bonuses leave reader shaking his head
Date November 23, 2005
Section(s) Opinion
To the Editor:

The front page article in last Wednesday’s Newton Daily News regarding incentive and bonus plans for the top execs at Maytag just left me shaking my head.

When you work in the small business community and are a small business owner, you understand the relationship between running a financially sound business, providing services to your customers, quality of product and then the financial benefit you receive from that.

That basic business philosophy seems to have been significantly lost on large corporate America these days. If you could sit in a college economics class a few years from now and do a case study on how corporate mismanagement and greed drove a once solid company into the ground in just a very short time, you probably couldn’t pick a better example than Maytag.

A client of mine, a Maytag retiree with more than 30 years of service, commented that for all the years he worked there, they had an esprit de corps amongst the employees. They had pride in what they did and the product and service they provided.

That’s pretty much out the window now and for that the execs get an incentive bonus! When you read these kinds of stories, from whatever company, these kinds of actions are always rationalized one way or the other.

The good news is that the small business world, for all its challenges, still has a pretty good grip on the real world and business is usually conducted in an ethical and upright manner. I’m glad I’m part of that world where you’re compensated for what you honestly earn.

Dennis DenHartog


Maytag pushes back shareholder acquisition vote to Dec. 22

November 22, 2005
Maytag pushes back shareholder acquisition vote to Dec. 22
Date November 22, 2005
Section(s) Unspecified
(AP) — Maytag Corp. on Monday pushed back to Dec. 22 its shareholder meeting to vote on its proposed acquisition by rival Whirlpool Corp.

The Newton-based home appliance maker said in a statement it wanted to provide sufficient notification to stockholders after the Securities and Exchange Commission cleared its proxy statement and prospectus.

Maytag stockholder on record as of Nov. 2 will be eligible to vote.

Whirlpool, based in Benton Harbor, Mich., agreed in August to buy Maytag for $1.7 billion in cash and stock, plus the assumption of nearly $1 billion in debt. Both companies have said they expect the deal to close as early as the first quarter of 2006.

Maytag earnings have plunged in recent years as the home appliance industry faces increased competition from overseas. In its latest quarterly report, Maytag recorded a loss of $18.2 million, or 23 cents per share, well below analysts’ expectations. The company blamed excess capacity and high prices for oil and raw materials.

Cardinals and Crows

November 18, 2005
Cardinals and Crows
Date November 18, 2005
Section(s) Opinion
A Cardinal goes out to the Newton Fire Department for its efforts at professionally responding to two recent fires. Early Monday morning, fire fighters responded to a house fire that gutted the home. On Wednesday, the department responded to an attic fire at USA Healthcare. (The staff at USA also deserves a Cardinal.) We are fortunate to have such a high-quality fire department in our city.

A Crow to the corporate culture that rewards failure. Sure, the Maytag executives who stand to gain millions of dollars upon successful completion of Whirlpool’s acquisition of the Newton-based company are only following the current business model, but that doesn’t make it set any better. The whole thing leaves one wondering how such a system can be.

Maytag appoints acting president of its appliances segment

November 17, 2005
Maytag appoints acting president of its appliances segment
Date November 17, 2005
Section(s) Local News

AP Business Writer

The Maytag Corp. executive in charge of the company’s expanding services unit was promoted to run the company’s appliances division, its largest business segment, the company announced Wednesday.

Arthur B. Learmonth, 59, was named acting president of Maytag Appliances and will direct the manufacturing and marketing of major appliances and floor care products sold in North America, the company said in a statement.

Learmonth will report to CEO Ralph Hake.

“Art Learmonth is a talented and proven executive who brings a wealth of operations experience from his 35-year career working in manufacturing and supply chain positions,” Hake said in the statement. “His skills will be invaluable as we manage through our restructuring initiatives.”

Hake has said the company must reduce its manufacturing costs by closing underutilized factories.

Maytag announced last week it will close its washing machine factory in Florence, S.C., by early next year. Plants in Newton, Iowa, and North Canton, Ohio, have been frequently mentioned as others with high costs and excess capacity.

The purchase of Newton-based Maytag by rival Whirlpool Corp. for $1.79 billion, or $21 a share, is under review by the Department of Justice. Maytag shareholders will vote on the proposed purchase by Benton Harbor, Mich.-based Whirlpool on Dec. 16.

Learmonth joined Maytag Appliances in 1997 as vice president of manufacturing and engineering. He was promoted to senior vice president of supply chain in 2003 and then assumed his most recent position at Maytag Services in 2004.

William L. Beer served as president of the appliances segment from 1998 to 2004, but at the time the position did not oversee floor care manufacturing. Beer became an executive vice president during a company restructuring in June 2004 when Maytag consolidated its Hoover, Maytag Appliances and headquarters divisions.

In January, Maytag announced that Beer would leave the company, ending his 31-year Maytag career.

Maytag also announced on Wednesday that David R. McConnaughey, 49, will fill the position vacated by Learmonth as head of Maytag Services. The division provides repair and maintenance to Maytag brand appliances as well as other major appliance brands.

Maytag manufactures and distributes appliances under Hoover, Jenn-Air, Amana and Dixie-Narco brands.

Maytag board approves executive incentive plans; Whirlpool says merger ‘on track’

November 16, 2005
Maytag board approves executive incentive plans; Whirlpool says merger ‘on track’
Date November 16, 2005
Section(s) Local News
By Associated Press

Newton Daily News

The Maytag Corp. board’s compensation committee set bonuses for company executives if the appliance manufacturer meets certain financial goals.

Maytag CEO Ralph Hake could earn an additional $1.4 million and three others would get more than $200,000 in bonuses.

The grants are part of a rolling three-year program and are not effective until Jan. 1, 2006, to executives employed on that date. The bonuses will not be awarded if the purchase by Whirlpool Corp. closes before Jan. 1, according to documents filed Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The bonuses are based on a percentage of the executives’ annual salary. They are paid in cash or company stock, which will be decided by the compensation committee.

The company must see growth in annual earnings, sales and working capital as a percent of sales.

The bonuses, approved by the committee Nov. 9, are granted under the company’s 2002 Employee and Director Stock Incentive Plan, which was approved by stockholders in 2002.

Awards under the 2006 plan are based on a percentage of an executive’s annual salary as of the first day of the performance period.

On Nov. 10, the Maytag board issued the automatic grant of options to purchase 3,000 shares of the company’s common stock to each of the nine non-employee directors on the board.

The grant, which is provided for under the 2002 Stock Incentive Plan, had previously been delayed from the regular issuance date earlier in the year.

The options vest three years after the date of grant, but could vest sooner under certain circumstances, including Whirlpool’s successful takeover of Maytag.

In a separate filing with the SEC, Whirlpool told its employees that its acquisition of rival appliance maker Maytag remains “on track” for closure as early as the first quarter 2006 pending Maytag shareholder approval and regulatory clearance.

“We remain on track with our acquisition plans and continue to believe that the combination will create substantial benefits for consumers, trade customers and our shareholders,” the filing said. “This transaction will translate into better products, quality and service, as well as other efficiencies that will allow us to offer a more competitive, wider range of products to a much broader consumer base.”

In a previous SEC filing, Whirlpool said it expected the merger to generate between $300 million and $400 million in annual pre-tax cost savings by the third year following completion of the merger. It said achieving those results would require one-time costs and capital investments between $350 million and $500 million, costs expected to be incurred during the first two years after completion of the merger.

Whirlpool said the cost savings estimated do not take into account the impact of any divestitures. After the completion of the merger, Whirlpool said it would evaluate Maytag operations and determine whether or not to pursue the sale of any Maytag operations.

Maytag Corp. announces 9-cent dividend per share

November 11, 2005
Maytag Corp. announces 9-cent dividend per share
Date November 11, 2005
Section(s) Business
The Maytag Corporation board of directors declared a quarterly dividend of 9 cents a share on the firm’s common stock.

The dividend is payable Dec. 15 to shareowners of record at the close of business Dec. 1.