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Carlos M. Gutierrez: 1953—: Corporate Executive

Led Kellogg Divisions Worldwide

After his coup in Mexico, Gutierrez shot up the corporate ladder. In 1989 he became president and CEO of Kellogg Canada. The following year he returned to Battle Creek where he was made corporate vice president for product development. Six months later he was promoted vice president of Kellogg Company and executive vice president for sales and marketing of Kellogg USA. In 1992 he became general manager of Kellogg USA's Cereal Division. The following year he was sent back overseas, this time as president of Kellogg Asia-Pacific, based in Australia. In each position, Gutierrez was admired for his ability to implement changes that resulted in better profitability and increased efficiency. However, he also drew praise for his professional manner. "He's gentle, tactful, polite," a former Kellogg newsletter editor told The Detroit News. "When you're with him you get a feeling of his strength, but it's very quiet strength. He just knew how to get along with people." That included everyone from fellow executives to hourly factory workers. His demeanor also won respect outside the walls of Kellogg. The mayor of Battle Creek told Hispanic, "It would be very easy for him to be self-important or self-aggrandizing, but he doesn't do that."

After a lifetime spent moving, first as an exiled child of Cuba and then as a busy corporate executive, Gutierrez finally settled down in 1996 when he transferred back to Battle Creek and moved into the upper-echelons of Kellogg management. The title on the door of his corporate suite originally read executive vice president for business development. It was changed to chief operating officer in 1998, a position which had been vacant for six years. Gutierrez's name was soon splashed across the business press and industry analysts agreed that the post was Gutierrez's last stop on his way to CEO. Their predictions came true the following year. In April of 1999, after nearly a quarter of a century with Kellogg, Gutierrez took the helm of the cereal dynasty as CEO and president.

When Gutierrez inherited Kellogg, the company had annual sales of $7 billion and employed over 14,000 workers worldwide. However, the company was in trouble. The Financial Times wrote in 1998 that "Kellogg has been going nowhere for most of the last decade. Its market share has declined, profits have bobbed up and down, and its share price performance has been as soggy as a bowl of old corn flakes." Busy consumers wanting their morning meal on-the-run were opting for breakfast bars, bagels, and bagged donuts. In addition price wars between cereal manufacturers cut into what little profit remained. Gutierrez faced an uphill battle to turn around the company, but it was a challenge he was ready for. In an oft-quoted comment made at a press conference following his appointment as CEO, Gutierrez boldly promised to boost profits by at least ten percent a year. Business analysts and stockholders alike wanted to know how. Change was his answer. "I think what the board wanted to see was leadership from someone who can really put the institution first," he was quoted in The Florida Times Union. "They know I love this institution … but they also know I've demonstrated a willingness to change."

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Bob Graham (1942-) Biography - Awards to Francis Hendy Biography - Born to SewCarlos M. Gutierrez: 1953—: Corporate Executive Biography - Early Learned Work Ethic Paid Off, Led Kellogg Divisions Worldwide, Took Bold Steps To Save Company