Posted on

Keller’s top three executives fired

The top three executives at Keller Manufacturing Co. were asked to turn in their resignations last Friday or Monday, and a new management team of four executives from outside the company is expected to be introduced at the Corydon plant sometime today.
In an effort to turn around the fortunes of the struggling dining and bedroom furniture manufacturing company, five members of the nine-man board ousted chairman of the board Robert Byrd; president and CEO Steve Robertson, and senior vice-president of marketing and sales Scott Armstrong. They were told either Friday or Monday and asked to clean out their desks immediately, a reliable source told this newspaper.
The new executives are:
Keith Williams, president and CEO;
David T. Richardson, chief financial officer;
Kenneth B. Fonville, president, Keller Design Center, and
Victor P. Roos, vice president of sales and marketing.
The three Keller executives and board members who were fired represented 75 years of experience in the furniture business.
Byrd was the president and CEO of Keller during its salad days in the late 1990s, when sales were roaring and its stock was at its highest level (about $25 in February 1998; lately it has hovered around $2.25). He was with Keller for 29 years.
Robertson, president for only three years, succeeded Byrd. He was with Keller for 25 years. Armstrong was with Keller for about 20 years.
Keller employees learned of the house-cleaning yesterday and were stunned, as were the executives.
Byrd, reached yesterday at his home in Prospect, Ky., said he could not comment about the changes in leadership until the official announcement is made today, but he remains optimistic that the furniture industry, hurt by slow orders and ferocious competition from China, will rebound. He said it’s tough to compete with manufacturers in the Orient who pay their employees $40 a month.
He said, ‘Keller is a good company, with very good people. We were always like a family. We shared the profits with the employees, and we did everything we could to make the company good for everybody.’
He said the managerial changes brought about by five majority members of the board are legal, and he and the others plan no legal action.
Byrd said he felt badly about the firings because he was responsible for bringing in the five majority members, who were not employed by Keller.
Those five members are John Schenkenfelder, vice president of UBS (formerly Paine Webber); Brad Ray, president of Steel Technologies; Don Humin, president of Flexible Materials; Phil Jacobs, president of Evans Furniture, and Larry Roy, vice president of Kentucky Trailers. All are located in Louisville.
Williams has more than 20 years of in-depth operational experience in business and manufacturing, more than half of which was spent at Child Craft Industries in Salem. Most recently, he has been president and CEO of Louisville-based bCatalyst Inc., which offers venture capital to early stage companies, represents buyers and sellers of businesses through its merger, acquisition and brokerage service and performs contract management services. He started bCatalyst in 2000. Before that, he was president of StreetFusion in San Franciso, which provided investor relations tools for public companies and investment firms.
From 1994 through early 1999, Williams was chief operating officer and later president and general manager of SerVend International in Sellersburg, a supplier of ice and beverage systems. He holds two U.S. patents in furniture design and function and a degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University.
Richardson, a CPA, has more than 16 years of financial leadership experience in industry, public accounting and banking. Since 2001 he has been managing partner of Capital Consulting Group, LLC, a Louisville-based public accounting firm specializing in financial consulting and restructuring services.
He has an MBA from the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Virginia and a bachelor ‘s degree in business from the University of Tennessee.
Fonville has more than 30 years of experience in the furniture industry. He was president of Pennsylvania House Furniture, a division of La-Z-Boy, from 1996 to 2002. Prior to that he served as president and CEO of Hood Furniture from 1994 to 1996.
Fonville started in the industry as a sales represtantive with Armstrong World Industries and Thomasville Furniture Industries, a subsidiary, in 1971. During his 14 years with the company he held a variety of positions ending as manager of product and merchandising for the Thomasville Division.
He has a bachelor of science in business administration from West Virginia University.
Roos has more than 14 years of experience in materials, operations, engineering and sales management. Most recently he worked for Kimball International in Jasper, where he was in business development and sales management. He has worked for Beach Mold and Tool, Fire King International, Child Craft Industries and American Air Filter.
He has an MBA and a bachelor’s degree in management from Indiana University.