Waste Management Names New CEO Amid Financial and Managerial Difficulties

In the latest in a series of high-level management changes at Waste Management Inc. (WMI), Houston, A. Maurice Myers has been named chairman, CEO and president of the company. He replaces Ralph Whitworth, who resigned November 9, the day before Myers took over the company.

Myers, who previously was chairman of Yellow Corp., Overland Park, Kan., is the sixth CEO of Waste Management since May 1996. The company has been dealing with financial and managerial problems since July 1999 [see "Waste Management Loses Top Officials, Faces Single Class-Action Lawsuits, Waste Age, September, page 28].

Financial difficulties began when, in the second quarter of 1999, WMI disclosed it was expected to fall $250 million short of projections. This caused its stock to fall more than $20 per share in one day. Class action lawsuits were filed on behalf of stockholders, who accused 10 top WMI executives of profiting by selling millions of stock shares shortly before prices plummeted.

Amid the allegations of insider trading, WMI's president and COO, Rodney Proto, was ousted by the company's board of directors in August, and chairman and CEO John Drury resigned.

WMI's net income for the second quarter of 1999 ended at 51 cents per share, or $322.5 million, but was expected to be as much as 78 cents per share.

On November 9, WMI reported a net loss of $948 million in the third quarter of 1999, which ended September 30, a 25 percent decrease from the comparable 1997 period when the company lost $1.3 billion.

The day Myers started work, shares of WMI stock fell 13 percent.

Revenues in the third quarter of 1999 were approximately $3.4 billion, up 4.3 percent from the approximately $3.2 billion in the third quarter of 1998.

"It's no secret that Waste Management has to restore investor and customer confidence," Myers said in a statement. "At the same time, despite adversity, the company has remained strong and profitable."

At press time, Myers had not released his plans or goals for the company. Bill Plunkett, a spokesperson for WMI, says Myers plans to develop a strategy soon.

"He is immersing himself in the business, meeting with executives and familiarizing himself with the issues and challenges he will face," Plunkett says. "For the time being, he is concentrating his efforts internally."