Call it regime change.
Asahi Glass Co., parent of AGC Glass North America, announced Thursday it has replaced four top executives at AGNA — including the No. 1 position at the firm.
Brad Kitterman, who has served as president and chief executive officer since 2006, has been replaced by Marehisa Ishiko.
Ishiko joins the company from AGC Japan where he was president of AGC Glass Co. for the Japan/Asia Pacific region. He has 28 years of experience with various AGC companies, including diverse experience in all phases of the flat and auto glass businesses.
Meanwhile, Kenzo Moriyama has been named executive vice president of strategic planning; Kazu Sako has been named senior vice president and chief financial officer, succeeding Ryne Van Gorp; and Mike Vigna has been named vice president, human resources, succeeding Lisa Escobar.
Speaking from AGNA headquarters in Alpharetta, Ga., Vigna told the Times-News that the parent company lost confidence in the top executives.
“The financial results of the organization have been pretty poor for some time now, and the senior leadership of the organization felt it was time for a change,” Vigna said.
AGNA manufactures and markets flat glass, automotive glass and solar panels, and employs 3,700 people in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. Locally, the company employs about 500 people in Kingsport and Church Hill. It also operates a coating facility in Abingdon.
Kitterman was named president and CEO of the company in May 2006 and four months later announced he was moving its headquarters from Kingsport to Alpharetta, Ga. He also changed the name of the company from AFG Industries to AGC Flat Glass.
When the recession hit, Kitterman took steps to cut costs. In April 2008, he announced plans to shrink the business by roughly 40 percent in a major restructuring move that would impact nearly 1,000 employees in North America.
Locally, AGC mothballed one of its two production lines at the Greenland plant in Hawkins County and eliminated 250 employees — or roughly half of the factory’s work force. In Kingsport, more than 60 employees in the Corporate Services unit on Lincoln Street lost their jobs.
Kitterman also closed a float glass and coating plant in Victorville, Calif.; a coating plant in Hampton, Iowa; and a float glass plant in St. Augustin, Quebec.
And he consolidated AGC’s North American Research and Development capabilities into the Greenland plant and Abingdon, Va., facility, which resulted in the closure of the company’s R&D facility in Petaluma, Calif.
But the economy continued to deteriorate. In January 2009, Kitterman announced he would halt production at the company’s Jerry Run Plant in West Virginia. He later closed that plant entirely.
In February 2009, he temporarily laid off 100 employees at the Blue Ridge Plant in Kingsport.
And in May 2009, Kitterman announced he was cutting employee benefits and implementing a salary and wage freeze.
Meanwhile, Asahi Glass announced in May 2009 it would merge its flat glass and automotive glass organizations under one umbrella to help boost profitability. Kitterman was tapped to head the combined organization.
But the company’s performance didn’t measure up to expectations, leading to Thursday’s announcement.
However, Vigna said Thursday the company is starting to see some positive signs in the economy.
“There are improvements in a number of areas. The automobile market has picked up a bit. Housing is still a bit slow. But we are seeing some improvement,” he said.
He said the company sees opportunity in the United States.
“We’re bringing in a team of international people and some of the best that Asahi has to offer, and we feel we can take advantage of that opportunity here,” Vigna said.
Both Moriyama and Sako are 28-year veterans of AGC. Moriyama most recently served as general manager of planning and strategy for AGC Glass Co. Japan/Asia Pacific. Sako most recently served in a dual role in AGC’s Finance and Control Office where he headed up the finance area and also led the planning and coordination for that office. He has worked twice before for AGC Automotive Americas.
Vigna has been with AGC for 10 years. He was most recently with AGC America (AGNA’s parent company) as North American regional vice president of human resources. He will now also be responsible for all human resources for AGNA and its subsidiaries. Earlier in his career he was head of human resources for AGC Automotive Americas.
“AGNA’s financial performance has been disappointing over an extended period of time — even taking into account the economic downturn,” said Akio Endo, AGC senior executive vice president and president of AGC Glass Co., which oversees all of the AGC’s glass businesses worldwide. “AGC is a world leader in glass production, and we are determined to be a leader in North America. We are fully committed to this end, and will leverage our global resources to achieve the full potential of our businesses here. The assignment of these proven and talented executives is, in itself, a strong statement of our commitment.”
Ishiko said he sees great opportunity for the company.
“We have a very strong team of people who understand this business and want their company to excel,” he said.
Asked if the company may consider relocating its headquarters back to Kingsport, Vigna said, “We’re going to evaluate everything in the company.”
“We’ve got a brand new management team of international people that are coming in and taking a look at everything,” Vigna said.
“We have a strong commitment to Kingsport and to the United States and to North America,” he added.
Headquartered in Tokyo, Asahi Glass has more than 47,000 employees worldwide with revenues of nearly $12 billion.
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