DETROIT -- Seating and electronics supplier Lear Corp. said CEO Bob Rossiter, who reorganized the company after a brief Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2009, will leave the company after 40 years of service. Chief Financial Officer Matt Simoncini was named his successor.
Rossiter, 65, will remain in an advisory role until May 2012 to assist with the transition, Lear said in a statement today.
Simoncini's appointment is effective Sept. 1, the company said.
"I have been involved in the CEO succession process with the board and I am very supportive of the selection of Matt Simoncini to succeed me," Rossiter said in the statement.
"I have worked closely with Matt over the years and I am confident that I am turning over Lear to very capable hands," Rossiter said.
Simoncini, 50, said he sees no changes in strategy. Lear, which has net cash of $1.1 billion, is looking at acquisitions of as much as $200 million to expand its electrical connectors and components unit as well as seat mechanisms and fabrics, he said.
"We have a great book of business with the domestic automakers but the real growth opportunities longer term are in the international markets," Simoncini told Bloomberg in an interview. "The business is out there."
Rossiter and Simoncini guided Lear in and out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in 2009, filing the petition in July and emerging from court protection in November after eliminating $3.6 billion in loan and bond debt. Like much of the supply chain, Lear had been bludgeoned by massive production cuts at General Motors and Chrysler that were caused by the nation's economic meltdown.
Lear's four-month stint in bankruptcy court contrasted sharply with other major U.S. supplies -- such as Delphi, Dura, and Dana -- that spent years in bankruptcy court.
"When we approached bankrupcty, I didn't know what to do," Rossiter said in an interview today with Crain's Detroit Business, an affiliate of Automotive News.
"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."
Two years before the bankruptcy, Rossiter tried to sell the company for $37.25 a share -- or $5.3 billion -- to high-profile Wall Street investor Carl Icahn. Shareholders, led by investor Richard Pzena, rejected the deal, claiming the company was worth more.
Rossiter said he began his career at Lear, then called Lear Siegler Seating Corp., in 1971 as a production scheduler. In 1988, 30 Lear executives, including Rossiter, launched a leveraged buyout of Lear Siegler.
To help finance the move, Rossiter took out a second mortgage on his home. After the buyout, Rossiter became president and chief operating officer -- second in command to CEO Ken Way.
As he developed relationships with potential customers, Rossiter became known as "Mr. Outside" to industry insiders, while Way, who guided the company's growth, was known as "Mr. Inside." Rossiter ultimately succeeded Way as CEO in 2000.
Throughout the 1990s Rossiter, Way and longtime CFO Jim Vandenberghe grew Lear into one of the largest interior producers in the world through a series of acquisitions.
The year Lear went public, in 1994, the company posted revenues of $3.15 billion. Six years later, when Rossiter took over as CEO, the company generated annual revenues of $14.07 billion.
Rossiter helped lead purchases of Automotive Industries Inc. (trim), Masland Corp. (carpeting), and United Technologies Automotive (interior modules and electronics). The 1999 deal with UT Automotive pushed Lear's sales over $10 billion for the first time.
Lear, based in suburban Detroit, ranks No. 14 on the Automotive News list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide sales to automakers of $11.95 billion in 2010.
Rossiter was the fifth-highest paid CEO in the North American auto industry in 2010 with total compensation of $14.7 million.
Dustin Walsh, Joseph Lichterman, Philip Nussel, Reuters, and Bloomberg contributed to this report.