Claire C. Skinner’s decision to take early retirement as chairman and CEO of Coachmen Industries Inc., which was announced on Monday (Aug. 28), was forged during a three-day meeting of the Coachmen board last week.
Her final day at Coachmen, an Elkhart, Ind.-based company her father, Thomas H. Corson, and her two uncles had formed in 1964, was last Friday. Skinner, 52, had been with the company since 1983.
Richard M. Lavers, former CFO, was named to succeed Skinner as CEO. He became the first non-member of the Corson family to head the company.
Lavers, 57, is already on the road meeting with management and employees at each of Coachmen’s locations across the country and was unavailable for comment.
“His only focus is hitting the ground running as new CEO,” said Jeff Tryka, director of investor relations. “He is meeting with employees and managers and looking at ways to execute upon our desire to return to profitability.”
Chief Accounting Officer Colleen Zuhl, 40, was named to succeed Lavers as CFO and William Johnson, a board member since 1978, was elected chairman of the board. He has served as lead director for several years.
This was the second major managerial change at Coachmen this year. In February, President and COO Matthew Schafer was dismissed. Skinner assumed his duties at that time.
Wall Street’s reaction to the recent change in management was generally positive, analysts said. Coachmen stock rose 8% in early trading while the overall market was down and RV stocks were flat.
The Coachmen board and investors had grown restless with the company’s overall performance, despite an upturn year through its “Intensive Recovery Plan” that Skinner initiated in 2005. Coachmen registered modest back-to-back profits in the first two quarters and had completed the steps it laid out in the recovery plan.
The plan included the sale of unprofitable units, the closure or consolidation of production facilities, the sale of non-operating assets and a reduction in salaried workforce.
In what was to become her final conference call with Wall Street analysts last month, Skinner projected Coachmen would be “marginally profitable” for the remainder of this year but would fall short of its goals. She projected revenues for the year in the range of $630 million to $680 million.
Coachmen’s sales in 2005 totaled $702 million, down by $100 million from 2004.
She did say that the company was stronger than it was six months ago and was gaining market share.
For 2007, Coachmen dumped many traditional lines and unveiled several new lines at its dealer show last month. Early dealer response to the new products was strong, according to the company.
Founded as an RV company, Coachmen began manufacturing system-built homes in 1982.
The Corson family once held a significant portion of the Coachmen stock, but that has shrunk over time. Skinner owns 1.8% of the Coachmen shares and her parents hold 6.8%, according to the latest proxy statement. First Pacific Advisors, Los Angeles, is the largest shareholder, with a 14.4% share.
Skinner’s career with Coachmen began in 1983. From 1987 through July 1997, she served as president of Coachmen RV Co., the company’s largest division. She was named chairman in 1997 and assumed the position of president from September 2000 through November 2003.
Skinner successfully fended off a hostile takeover offer in 2000 by Thor Industries Inc., Jackson Center, Ohio. In recent years, the company was plagued by litigation involving the failed attempt to produce fold-down campers under The Coleman brand name and by defective materials for some of its products.
Skinner has been active in RV industry matters. She has served on the board of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) since 1994 and served as chairman in 2004. She received the RVIA’s Distinguished Service Award in 2005. Skinner has yet to notify RVIA regarding her future status on the board.
Lavers joined Coachmen in 1997 as general counsel and assumed the position of executive vice president of the company in May 2000. He has served as secretary of the company since 1999 and in December 2005 also assumed the position of CFO.
Before joining Coachmen, he was vice president, secretary and general counsel of RMT Inc. and Heartland Environmental Holding Co. He has a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from the University of Michigan.