2002: Callaway’s executive shuffle

Taking steps to define his inner circle, Callaway Golf’s CEO has announced key personnel changes, resulting in a greater role for the company’s famed club designer, the departure of its top sales executive and a reassignment for the Coca-Cola marketing whiz recruited by Ely Callaway himself.

The management shake-up marks another step in the company’s evolution since the legendary founder’s death last year, and arguably, underscores chief executive Ron Drapeau’s attention to product development and manufacturing efficiencies compared with his predecessor’s passion for marketing.

Contrary to widespread industry rumors that club designer Richard Helmstetter would resign at year’s end, Callaway’s chief R&D officer has been tapped to oversee “product management function” – a system installed a year ago that assigned to each equipment category a manager to shepherd new products to market. By having all of these managers now report to Helmstetter, Drapeau expects to better integrate the entire product creation process, from concept to retail debut.

Drapeau’s decision to shift product control to Helmstetter and promote Patrice Hutin to executive vice president of global sales and advertising, however, reassigns these core tasks that previously were managed by Ian Rowden, a disciple of Coca-Cola marketing guru Sergio Zyman.

Rowden, instead, will “work on key business, market, operational and strategic planning initiatives,” and assist Helmstetter and Hutin “with the integration of the marketing and product management functions,” according to a Callaway statement. Rowden will retain his executive vice president title and report to Drapeau.

But the unusual and somewhat cryptic corporate behavior preceding the announcement of Rowden’s new duties has triggered considerable speculation about his status – and future – within Callaway’s upper echelon.

Rowden joined the Carlsbad, Calif.-based equipment company in August 2000, and within 13 months, Ely Callaway promoted him to executive vice president and chief marketing officer, seemingly fast-tracking his career. But the Sept. 3 company statement, which announced Hutin’s and Helmstetter’s new responsibilities, made no mention of Rowden.

When asked about the executive’s status, a Callaway spokesman confirmed Sept. 10 that Rowden was still employed, but declined to elaborate.

Discussions about Rowden’s fate became the focus of the industry rumor mill.

Then, two days later, the company broke its silence and revealed Rowden’s new duties. Some industry observers maintain Rowden has been stripped of key duties; others describe his new position as critical to Callaway’s growth. Rowden did not return a phone call seeking comment about his new position.

Meanwhile, company officials also said little about the departure of former Nike executive Michael McCormick, who had served as Callaway’s head of global sales since 2000. It was announced that McCormick left Callaway to “pursue other goals.”

With McCormick gone and Rowden’s role altered, it appears Callaway’s spotlight now will shine on Hutin, a Frenchman who had been serving as president of Callaway Golf Europe LTD, the company’s wholly-owned European subsidiary.

Hutin has more than 18 years of golf industry experience, including tenures as president of TaylorMade Golf and Cleveland Golf. He will report to Drapeau and have worldwide responsibility for Callaway’s sales, advertising and marketing programs.

During his five-year reign at Cleveland, sources say, Hutin helped grow the company’s sales from $8 million in 1990 to $30 million in 1995. Described by some observers as an “extremely intelligent, intuitive leader,” Hutin relied little on market research when he authorized in the mid-1990s the bold launch of the unconventional VAS 792 irons, which featured a purple medallion in the club’s cavity back. The irons sold well and were used by Corey Pavin during his 1995 U.S. Open victory at Shinnecock Hills. But Hutin’s critics say the move also clashed with Cleveland’s heritage of classic-styled clubs and ultimately stunted the company’s growth.

Drapeau, however, is betting that his new lineup will elevate Callaway’s performance.

“By making these organizational changes, we have taken two men with a combined 35 years of golf industry experience and put them into positions where they will have an immediate and very positive impact on the way we do business,” he said.

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