James O'Leary, Beazer Homes USA's vice president and chief financial officer, resigned March 21 to become president and chief executive officer of Kaydon Corporation, a designer and manufacturer of custom-engineered products. The resignation is effective March 23, but O'Leary, 44, has agreed to continue as an advisor to Beazer until May 1.
The departure of O'Leary was seen as a blow to Beazer on Wall Street, where O'Leary is well regarded. Still, the street took his departure to take a CEO position as a natural rising of talent to the top as opposed to a knock on Beazer.
"Kaydon represents the next logical step for Mr. O'Leary, in our view, rather than incremental negative issues at BZH," said JP Morgan home building and building products analyst Michael Rehaut in a research note late on Wednesday. "We believe this move simply represents a better opportunity for Mr. O'Leary to move from the CFO to the CEO position, as Beazer CEO Ian McCarthy, at 54, is likely to remain in his current position for several more years."
"Jim has played a significant role in Beazer Homes' success over the past five years and has been instrumental in numerous corporate initiatives," said McCarthy. "While we will miss him and his broad business and financial experience, this is an excellent move for Jim and one for which he is well suited."
"I am extremely excited about the opportunities that lie ahead in assuming the leadership of Kaydon," said O'Leary. "However, the decision to leave Beazer Homes has been an extremely difficult one."
O'Leary went to work for Beazer, based in Atlanta, in 2002 as executive vice president, responsible for corporate development and supply chain and national purchasing initiatives. He became chief financial officer in 2003. Before moving to Beazer, he was chairman and chief executive officer for the LCA Group, a global lighting subsidiary of U.S. Industries. He holds an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and an undergraduate business degree from Pace University.
At Kaydon, where he has been a member of the board of directors since 2005, O'Leary will succeed Brian P. Campbell, whose retirement was announced in February.
"I have known Jim for eight years and have always been impressed by his well-honed intellect and broad and diverse skills," Campbell said. "He brings a wealth of business, operations and financial experience to Kaydon and the board."
The search for a replacement will be both in-house and external, said Leslie H. Kratcoski, Beazer's vice president for investor relations and corporate communications. "This is a situation where we have a very strong financial team and IT team in place so we have the luxury of not having to hurry up and appoint somebody," said Kratcoski, "There is a pretty strong bench."