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Harland Chairman Resigns

March 1998
ATLANTA—Robert Amman, chairman and CEO of the John H. Harland Co., has resigned following continued lackluster financial results and "differences of opinion as to how to best implement" the company's strategies.

The new interim chief is John Weitnauer, a Harland director for 25 years. A search for a new CEO has been launched.

The management shake-up comes as the company reports downbeat financial news. Sales for the quarter that ended on Dec. 31, 1997, were $141.7 million compared to $151.6 million a year earlier. Sales for the 12-month period were $562.7 million, compared to $609.4 million in 1996.

Amman became CEO in October 1995 and initiated a strategy of consolidation and downsizing that led to the closing of 20 of the 40 plants Harland once operated (including 17 imprint and three web plants). Thirty-one of the plants will be closed by the time the downsizing is completed.

"Harland is committed to the ambitious business strategy that is in place; however, we must do a better job of driving the benefits of this strategy to the bottom line," says Weitnauer.

The moves are part of a decision by Harland to "wind down" its "The Check Store" subsidiary.

As debit and credit cards become more popular, the check-printing business is under fire. Future annual growth in the market is estimated at between 1 percent and 3 percent, and for a company like Harland, which derived about 70 percent of its 1996 sales from check printing, that was a recipe for little or no growth.

"Harland has seen a lot of change during its 75-year history, and has always adapted and continued to serve its customers extremely well," Weitnauer notes.

"Bob Amman has initiated an ambitious program of change, and we thank him for his leadership and strategic vision. The strategy of the company is sound. We will focus on precise execution that will complete the transition and also preserve the Harland brand of outstanding customer service."

In 1997, Harland was awarded new check business with annual revenues of more than $40 million, including business from major national financial institutions such as First Union and Chase Manhattan.

One of the few places where Harland is growing is Grapevine, TX, where the company opened an 83,000-square-foot facility in April of last year. Production is set to grow considerably this year as more facilities close and more of the business from those plants goes there.

But Weitnauer claims that an increasing number of Harland's traditional check-printing customers are also being drawn to Harland's new marketing services products.

From 1980 to 1986, Weitnauer was chairman and CEO of Richway, a mass merchandising division of Federated Department Stores. He says that, as interim CEO, he will be assisted by the existing senior management team.

"This is a talented team, and I look forward to working with them during the search," he says. "Harland will be in good, experienced hands throughout the process and into the future."

By Christopher Cornell


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