DUSTIN WALSH

Lear's new CEO won't change direction of company

Dustin Walsh covers auto suppliers for Crain's Detroit Business, an affiliate of Automotive News.

DETROIT -- Lear Corp.'s new CEO, Matt Simoncini, plans to stay the course and continue expanding the supplier's footprint in emerging markets, he said in an interview this morning.

Simoncini, who is the current CFO, will replace CEO Bob Rossiter in Lear's top spot on Sept. 1, when the longtime auto industry executive steps down from the position, Lear announced this morning.

"We've got a really good global footprint, especially in China," Simoncini, 50, said. "My role is to continue this company down that path (of growth)."

Lear expects to increase revenue to more than $20 billion over the next five years. The supplier generated nearly $12 billion in revenue last year.

Rossiter, 65, said Simoncini will lead Lear in emerging markets through strategic acquisitions and joint ventures in the coming years.

"The direction we're going, we want to try to add certain capability for our portfolio in other areas of the world and acquire businesses that strengthen our position," Rossiter said.

Simoncini has served as Lear's CFO since 2007. Prior, he was senior vice president of global finance and chief accounting officer and has been with the company and its predecessor companies for the past 15 years.

He was largely responsible for getting the suburban Detroit-based supplier through its 2009 Chapter 11 bankruptcy in just four months.

Lear had borrowed all of a $1.2 billion main credit facility as revenues were dropping by 2009. Simoncini and his team put together a prepackaged reorganization that converted $3 billion in debt into a combination of new debt, convertible stock and equity warrants.

"When we approached bankrupcty, I didn't know what to do," Rossiter said. "I gave the responsibility to Matt and they (Matt and the financial team at Lear) went out and worked the banks, pre-filing. We didn't file before we had a deal with the bonds, customers and unions. The company all pitched in, and it was a team effort, and I was really proud of what these guys were able to accomplish."

Henry Wallace, chairman of Lear's board of directors and former Ford Motor Co. executive, said the board believes Simoncini will "be able to build on Bob's legacy moving down the road."

"The incoming CEO, Matt, is inheriting a great company as the board sees it," he said. "Transitions always bring risks, and opportunity, but we're confident we have the right person in the job."

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