EASTMAN KODAK CO. director Roberto Goizueta was always outspoken about his strategy for selecting a new chairman. He would, the Coca-Cola CEO told reporters, "start with God...and go down a little bit at a time." In the end, it took a 12-week search before last week's appointment of Motorola chairman George M. C. Fisher. But Wall Street reacted as if the Deity himself were stepping into the post.
Kodak had indicated it would not select a technology expert to run the company. But 52-year-old Fisher, an engineer by training, held credentials that both surprised and pleased analysts. The former Bell Laboratories manager holds a doctorate in mathematics and has expertise in wireless technology. He replaces Kay Whitmore, who was asked to step down in July because of the company's poor profitability This summer, Kodak announced layoffs of 10,000 workers. But Fisher has said he plans to improve profits with product growth and revenue performance, and not through additional bloodletting.
Can Fisher brighten Kodak's financial picture? Search-committee chairman Goizueta touts him as "an outstanding chief executive with...a reputation for keeping costs in line." But last week industry experts seemed as curious about his salary, which Kodak wouldn't reveal, as about his plans for the company. Fisher earned about $1.5 million a year at Motorola, where he made the company a world leader in many technologies. It is speculated that he will receive stock options that even exceed the pact offered IBM's new CEO, Louis Gerstner. That could make Fisher $100 million richer. It may not buy him a throne in heaven, but he'll be flying pretty high.