DETROIT -- Tim Leuliette is out as CEO of Dura Automotive Systems and managing director of the automotive group at Patriarch Partners, the private equity firm that owns a majority stake in the supplier.
Tom Chambers, 66, who has been Dura COO since early 2009, succeeds Leuliette, 60, as managing director of Patriarch's automotive portfolio, the firm said today. Jeff Stafeil, 40, has been promoted to Dura's CEO from CFO.
Lynn Tilton, Partriarch's founder and CEO, said the management shake up could help clear the way for a merger of Dura and Global Automotive Systems, the firm's other major automotive holding. She's been eyeing that merger since Patriatrch acquired a $125 million, majority stake in Dura in January, Tilton said in an interview.
“When we bought Dura, we always expected that eventually we'd merge the two companies,” she said. She said an agreement between the companies has allowed them to “share the best and brightest talent already. This sets the stage to make (a merger) easier if we choose to do it.”
For example, Jim Gregory, the 44-year-old CFO of Global Automotive, is moving to the top finance post at Dura.
Leuliette was Dura's CEO when Patriarch acquired its stake and was quickly appointed managing director of Patriarch's auto practice, overseeing both Dura and Global Automotive. Tilton said a succession plan has been in the works from the start.
“Tim was integral in this balance sheet and operational restructuring,” Tilton said. “This was always planned at some point, and that time came.” She added that both companies have had “a record year” of profitability.
Leuliette was not immediately available for comment.
Considered one of the more outspoken and visible executives in the auto supply chain, Leuliette took the helm of Dura from Larry Denton in July 2008. In 2007, Leuliette stepped down as CEO of supplier Metaldyne Corp. He also was co-chairman and co-CEO of Asahi Tec Corp., which acquired Metaldyne a year earlier.
Leuliette has been an advocate for the supplier sector, especially during the recent downturn. He helped organize a Washington, D.C., rally in late 2008 to lobby Congress for federal aid to the auto sector.Before joining Metaldyne, Leuliette was COO of Penske Corp., and had been CEO of ITT Automotive Inc.
Patriarch's auto portfolio includes several smaller parts makers in addition to Dura and Global Automotive, which make glass systems, door modules, throttle controls, shifters and other parts. Both are headquartered in suburban Detroit.
Martin Becker, 41, who was an executive vice president and general manager for Dura's global control systems division, will replace Chambers as COO.
Dura ranks No. 86 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global parts suppliers, with worldwide sales to automakers of $1.29 billion in 2009.