The National Automobile Dealers Association is expected to run like a clock even after the death of its president.
Frank McCarthy, who died Feb. 25 from kidney cancer, left the association adequately prepared for his departure. The late chief executive had been within 10 months of retiring from his 33-year career at NADA, and the search for his replacement had been well under way.
McCarthy, who was 66, gave NADA four years notice, streamlined the NADA staff to make it easier to manage and authorized a search committee to hunt for a new president more than a year before his planned Dec. 31, 2001, retirement date. McCarthy intended to train his successor six months before he retired.
NADA represents more than 19,500 dealers.
'NADA will never be the same,' said Paul Holloway, chairman of the search committee and president of Dreher-Holloway Inc. in Exeter, N.H. 'But it will be run just fine.'
Kelleher running show
Bruce Kelleher, NADA's chief administrative officer, worked with McCarthy for 26 years and was appointed acting president last week by the executive committee of the NADA board of directors.
Kelleher is the only NADA employee with more seniority than McCarthy. He began working for the NADA Used Car Guide in 1966 and spent several years managing NADA's West Coast office before it was closed. Kelleher worked closely with McCarthy as an administrator since 1975. 'You can't be around Frank McCarthy for 26 years and not learn something of his management style,' Kelleher said. 'Hopefully, we won't miss a beat.'
McCarthy initiated a reorganization of the staff in 1998, making the association easier to manage. But NADA was in a quandary when McCarthy first discussed plans to retire.
'We had 14 people reporting to Frank,' Holloway said. 'We told him (McCarthy) nobody's going to be able to walk in and do that job. For him, it was easy. He grew up in the job.'
As a result, NADA's board of directors hired consultants, surveyed its members and talked to previous officers to develop a reorganization plan. The staff was realigned in four main divisions - legislative affairs, industry affairs, dealer operations, and public and legal affairs. COOs were appointed over each division. Now five executives report to the president - the four COOs and Kelleher.
'Frank husbanded that through,' Holloway said. 'He was as much a player in the reorganization as anybody, if not more. The reorganization has made NADA much quicker to respond to various issues on Capitol Hill and in industry relations.'
Search is on
Meanwhile, the search committee is on schedule and intends to introduce the finalist for McCarthy's job at the next board of directors meeting June 12 and 13, Holloway said. The committee has yet to winnow out finalists and its efforts are confidential.
The committee is looking inside and outside the association for McCarthy's replacement. The four COOs at NADA - Phillip Brady of industry affairs, Tom Greene of legislative affairs, Bill Newman of public and legal affairs and Carl Ragsdale of dealer operations - are possible candidates. Kelleher told the search committee he was not interested in McCarthy's job. 'I am too old,' said Kelleher, who is 61. 'If I were a younger man, I would be interested.'
As a younger man, however, Kelleher was perfectly happy being McCarthy's right-hand man.
'He lead by example,' Kelleher said. 'Those around him got caught up in his enthusiasm.'