William L. Davis - Donnelley's Number-one Son
The directors told Davis about the challenges associated with the position. Later, they would also candidly discuss the two discrimination suits filed against R.R. Donnelley.
"I was assured by the directors, who obviously looked hard at this subject, that these suits were essentially without merit," Davis says.
The lawsuits trace their roots back to 1993. That was the year Donnelley shut down the facility responsible for printing the defunct Sears catalog. The lawsuits came years after, from former employees who felt they were laid off unfairly.
"In late '95, we get this lawsuit on age discrimination, then in '96 we get one on race discrimination, for something that theoretically happened in 1993," Davis says.
"The cases themselves are still in the preliminary-hearing stages," he continues, "and we still feel very strongly that they are without merit. We know of nothing that would change our view on that."
The meetings with the directors went well—so well, that in March of 1997, Davis moved into the corner office in Donnelley's Chicago headquarters. Not that the chairman and CEO collects cobwebs behind his desk. Twelve years in the retail business gave Davis a fear of sitting. He prefers to stay on his feet.
Since Davis enjoys being on the go, he acclimated himself to R.R. Donnelley by touring its vast, global domain. The trips confirmed what he had already believed to be true: Printing shares similarities with the industries to which he was accustomed. Granted, the products differ, but the issues don't. Printing facilities, like the other manufacturing plants where Davis worked, must deal with scheduling, throughput, material flow, training, quality and consistency.
Davis found the commonality between the industries comforting: "I was very pleasantly surprised when I visited my first Donnelley plant my first week—to get a sense that I was back in what I consider traditional manufacturing."