Leading Corporate Renewal: Selim Bassoul at Middleby Corporation
Middleby Corporation was a designer and manufacturer of commercial food processing and food service equipment for fast food as well as high-end restaurants. During the latter half of the 1990s, Middleby became increasingly unfocused as its number of product lines increased dramatically. Margins and sales slipped. At the same time, some of the company's high-profile product development initiatives ended in failure. Although Middleby's top management recognized some of these apparent warning signs, rather than take action, they seemed eager to blame the disappointing results solely on the company's overseas operations. This inaction caused Middleby's financial performance to deteriorate further, resulting in violations of its loan covenants. To finally correct the situation, Selim Bassoul was moved from his role as general manager of Middleby's Southbend plant up to chief operating officer for the entire corporation. Bassoul had taken the underperforming Southbend plant and turned it into a star performer, correcting and improving customer service, operations, and finances and establishing a clear strategic direction. Bassoul had to craft a turnaround plan for the entire company in the areas of strategy, operations, and finance. He cut the number of products substantially, fired some key customers after a customer profitability analysis, and focused product development on innovative products that saved Middleby's customers time and money. Following these changes and others, the company returned to profitability and Bassoul was named CEO. Bassoul then decided to present a major acquisition opportunity to the board of directors.