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Retired Executives Bring Valuable Experience to Boards

When the board of directors of IPC The Hospitalist Company meets, among the members are retirees who are still actively engaged in the corporate world. That’s just the way IPC Chief Executive Dr. Adam Singer wants the board to look. The composition of boards of directors is critical to the operations of a public company and there is little debate over the value retired CEOs and other C-level executives bring to the board room table. It all comes down to their experience, or as Singer calls it having been there and done that. “When a company faces challenges you need to know how (directors) react when bullets start flying,” said Singer, who also serves as the board chairman. “You need people who know how to organize and make a strategic plan. You are not going to have that without experience.” Out of the 50 largest public companies in the Valley region 29 have at least one retired executive serving on their board. Of that number, 17 companies have multiple retirees. Some Valley companies have heavy hitters among their directors, while others have brought on those less likely to be in a spotlight. Pharmaceutical giant Amgen Inc. and MannKind Corp. in Valencia have former Northrop Grumman chief executives, Ronald Sugar and Kent Kresa respectively. Retired Mattel Inc. President Ned Mansour serves on the board of the home builder the Ryland Group. V. Paul Unruh retired from engineering and construction services firm Bechtel Group Inc. as vice chairman now sits on the board of Move Inc. and two other public companies. Among IPC’s directors are Woodrin Grossman, who retired as a senior vice president from Odyssey HealthCare Inc.; former Blue Cross Blue Shield Association President and CEO Patrick G. Hays; and retired CFO Chuck Timpe. Having been in leadership positions themselves these retirees bring into the boardroom first-hand knowledge of what a CEO is facing and how they are making decisions. They are helpful in giving advice when problems arise and can steer management in the right direction to solve those problems. Having connections These retired executives come with other benefits as well, such as connections in the business world and well developed networks, said Nandini Rajagopalan, professor of management and organization at the USC Marshall School of Business And they also have the time. Active CEOs and executives also populate the boards of companies other than their own but by doing both raises time management issues. “You don’t run into that with retired CEOs,” said Rajagopalan, who is also Captain Henry Simonsen Chair in Strategic Entrepreneurship and has done research on corporate boards. For Singer, the mentoring role these former executives bring has been one he personally gained from. With a background in medicine, Singer’s business experience was negligible when he started IPC in 1995. The company went public in January 2008. “I took all the mentoring I could get,” Singer said. The make-up of the IPC board has changed over the years, going from weighted toward investors to one now dominated by veteran business professionals. Having those professionals is preferred by Singer over what he sees as the alternative: a board lacking experience or backgrounds not applicable to what IPC is doing.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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