2005: Newsmakers - Callaway CEO a golf neophyte

Callaway Golf Co. announced Aug. 1 that it has hired former Revlon executive George Fellows to serve as the company’s president and chief executive officer.

Fellows, 62, replaces William C. Baker, who became chairman and chief executive on Aug. 2, 2004, after Ron Drapeau was forced out of those jobs. Baker will remain a director, but Ronald S. Beard, Callaway’s lead independent director, was elected to succeed Baker as chairman. Fellows also was elected to serve as a company director.

“Mr. Fellows is a skilled operator who has a track record of building shareholder value in numerous consumer brand businesses,” Beard said in a news release. “In particular, his expertise in marketing and brand building is expected to help us continue to build strength in all of the company’s four major golf brands – Callaway Golf, Odyssey, Top-Flite and Ben Hogan.”

Fellows’ career with consumer-products companies began in 1966 at Colgate-Palmolive. From 1970-1984, he held various positions with International Playtex, including serving as president of its Intimate Apparel Division. Fellows later served as president of Mennen North America from 1989-1992, and subsequently returned to Colgate as president of Colgate Latin America.

Although Fellows’ background is not in golf, there’s some sentiment that his experience in consumer products could prove beneficial.

“One of the things I think the golf industry could use relative to others is an infusion of brand-management expertise,” said Rommel Dionisio, an analyst who follows Callaway for Wedbush Morgan Securities. “No one’s ever questioned the technical expertise of a company like Callaway, and certainly Fellows brings in a welcome level of brand-management experience.”

In 1993, Fellows was hired as chairman of Revlon North America, and eventually became president and chief executive of Revlon Inc. Since leaving Revlon in November 1999, Fellows has operated his own New York-based consulting business and served as a senior adviser to InvestCorp and J.P. Morgan Partners.

Fellows’ tenure at Revlon did not end well.

According to company documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Revlon was in the midst of a restructuring, and sales were down 19.8 percent for the first nine months of 1999, just prior to Fellows’ departure. The company lost $202.8 million during that period, including $164.7 million during his final quarter at the company.

Fellows’ hiring comes two months after an offer led by William Foley, chairman and chief executive of Fidelity National Financial Inc., to buy Callaway Golf and take the company private. It was not immediately clear what impact the hiring of Fellows will have on that offer. Foley did not return a call seeking comment.

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