He's The Boss At 2 Companies Meet Lennox K. Black, Ceo Of Teleflex. Meet Lennox K. Black, Ceo Of Penn Virginia Corp.

Posted: November 21, 1994

Lennox K. Black's friends call him Bim; the nickname stuck from his childhood in Montreal. Nowadays, they can also call him the Incredible Two- Headed CEO.

For the last two years, Black has been the chief executive of two distinctly different corporations simultaneously, and somehow has retained his sanity.

"It was fun," said Black, 63. "It was a learning experience."

Black, 63, is best known as the chairman and chief executive of Teleflex Inc., the eclectic Plymouth Meeting maker of such diverse devices as automatic control systems.

Since 1992, Black has moonlighted as chief executive of Penn Virginia Corp., the Philadelphia natural-resources company that stumbled in recent years.

Teleflex paid Black $512,437 in total compensation last year, enough to rank him 69th among CEOs at 169 area companies.

At Penn Virginia, his total compensation last year was $105,132, 166th among CEOs.

One other area executive runs two companies, but the firms are closely related, unlike the disparate companies Black headed. NovaCare Inc. CEO John Foster is also CEO of Apogee Inc.

Juggling the responsibility for two corporations has hardly left Black frantic and overstressed.

"It was so simple, it's embarrassing telling you," said Black, a calm, measured aficionado of Japanese art who likens his management style to that of a Zen Buddhist guru.

Teleflex, the company that Black has managed since 1971, makes control systems for airplanes, cars and boats, along with surgical instruments and coatings for turbines. It has expanded methodically in the last 20 years from $25 million in sales to nearly $800 million, much of that by acquisitions.

Penn Virginia, on the other hand, is the epitome of a struggling company in a mature industry. It owns coal and natural-gas properties and was sinking fast in recent years along with the fortunes of its sibling, Westmoreland Coal Co.

Then management was shaken up. Black, who sat on the board of directors, was asked to take over.

"I was the only one on the board with operating experience and who lived in Philadelphia," he said.

Black had already relinquished much of the day-to-day command at Teleflex in 1986 to David S. Boyer, the president and chief operating officer. Lehman Bros. recently praised the company's "strong management team."

But Penn Virginia needed a jump start.

As an outsider, Black said, he was able to lop off parts of Penn Virginia's business because he was unburdened by emotional attachments.

"It's very much easier to walk in and change somebody else's portfolio," he said.

Penn Virginia was joined at the hip with Westmoreland Coal, the Philadelphia coal company that recently filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. Under Black, Penn Virginia sold off about half of its Westmoreland stock - it still owns 19 percent. Penn Virginia wrote off $21.7 million in losses on Westmoreland.

Meanwhile, Black reconfigured Penn Virgina to make it operate more independently of Westmoreland. He decided to retain the royalty-producing coal properties, sell off the slow limestone business, and focus on growing Penn Virginia's natural-gas properties.

"It doesn't take much brights to figure out where the growth is," he said.

"The whole basis of strategy is so simple," said Black, who attended the Royal Canadian Naval College and often refers to management as though it were a military operation. "You just have to decide where you're attacking and where you're defending."

He spends a few hours a day on Penn Virginia business. And every month or two, he flies to its operations in Appalachia.

Black believes in delegating authority.

"There's a dynamic that takes place," he said. "If you give people responsibility and you trust them, they multiply."

Black's life at the helm of two corporations will not last much longer.

He is scheduled to retire next year as chief executive at Teleflex, although he will remain on as chairman.

A similar transition also is taking place at Penn Virginia, where A. James Dearlove was named president this month.

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|