Visteon CEO Departure Leaves The Future Hazy
|   Friday, August 24, 2012
With the leaving of Visteon Corp CEO Don Stebbinsis, the business is in an intriguing position after 12 years of losing cash, the construction of a major southeast Michigan headquarters and whole months of boardroom drama. The departure of Stebbins is the last act of a nearly two year long war between Stebbins and board members.

The new CEO of Visteon, Tim Leuliette, age 62, is a vocal advocate of private equity stake in the auto supply chain, and he will be charged with the job that Stebbins, age 54, was not able to accomplish; that job was to return value to the bondholders, which could potentially mean a breakup and auction of assets, says Autonews.


By May 2011, Stebbins, who was chairman at the time, and the rest of the board arrived at an impasse with the threat of a proxy battle looming. The infighting led to the resignation of longtime board member William Redmond Jr. on May 20, 2011.

Redmond said in a letter following his resignation: "There are no winners in this 'fight,' with the biggest loser being our collective shareholder value, given the distraction of this, and its toll on management and the board's time."

Visteon announced in November 2011 a non-binding agreement to sell the majority of its global interiors business to its Chinese joint venture, Yanfeng Visteon Automotive Trim Systems Co. The joint venture is between Visteon and Huayu Automotive Systems Co., which is a subsidiary of China's biggest automobile maker, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp (SAIC) who happens to be owned by the government. In the previous year, SAIC and Visteon couldn't agree on the price for the business.

Next, Visteon sold its lighting unit to the Indian Varroc Group for 92 million dollars, back in February. On July 4, Visteon said it planned to offer 805 million dollars to acquire the rest of the 30 percent stake in Halla, the Korean venture in which it held 70 percent of the shares.

However, it also said at the same time that the deal to sell its remaining interiors business to Yanfeng had been shot down. The interiors business produced 2.16 billion dollars in 2010. Finally, the Hala deal was rejected after Korea's National Pension Service, holing an 8 percent stake in Halla, rejected Visteon's offer.

Stebbins and his team met their doom when the failure to acquire the rest of Halla reached the board's ears. After it emerges from bankruptcy, Leuliette was hired on to lead the suburban Detroit supplier Dura Systems in 2008. He was the one who led its sale to private investment firm Patriarch Partners of New York in 2010.

He also has experience in the Asian market, where more than half (60 percent) of Visteon's business is conducted, including his investment firm Andus-Leuliette. About a year ago, China Auto Parts and Accessories Capital Holding Ltd. Based in Hong Kong acquired the stake in Andus-Leuliette previously held by The Tempo Group Inc., a Beijing auto supplier.
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