Thierry Morin was a finance professional who came to Valeo from outside the auto industry. After some years in one of Valeo’s divisions, he came to manage Valeo’s finances, and in 2001 became chairman of Valeo Group. In that tenure, Morin learnt management technique from Noel Goutard. He also came to know the Valeo philosophy of passion for automotive products. I remember his passion for technology when he was financial director of Valeo. Visiting with him several motor shows, I was impressed by his keen questions about performance, style, and quality of the Product.
How might we assess Morin’s eight-year run at the head of Valeo? Sales volumes are certainly not the only measure of his success. Morin steadily and substantially improved Valeo’s image, putting his company opposite such competitors as Delphi, Visteon and other OEM suppliers. Valeo now enjoy a strong position in thermal management, climate control, in safety with cutting-edge lighting and DA systems, in energy conservation with “Stop and Go”.
But like Goutard, Morin stayed too long at this level. In the auto industry especially, he who is the big boss for many years with a supportive board behind him unintentionally becomes godlike; there’s no opposition from the board, and strategic and personal decisions can lose their realistic grounding and traction. One year ago, Thierry Morin was quite a god indeed with good 2007 results, victory against Pardus, ambitious intra-company targets, and a good worldwide economic situation. But without periodic reality checks from the board, such a singular leader’s perspective can become clouded. He can make mistakes like rejecting the proposals of the board and main stakeholders, refusing to share management responsibility, and so on. As long as the results are good, everything’s fine. But when the results go sour, such a leader is fired.
In staying his one year more, Thierry Morin’s luck reversed; he lost his great reputation and saw the quick erosion of his big buildup job done over decades; we now retain only the €3.2m indemnity. Boardroom disputes and disagreements at Valeo have obviously come to a head. Morin’s exit looks like a victory for private equity firm Pardus, who own 19.75% of Valeo and with whom Morin did not see eye to eye. The departure of Thierry Morin from his position as Valeo CEO will be unsettling for employees. In these turbulent times, they would have been looking for their reliable leader to steer a course that provided some stability and the promise of being well positioned for better times in the long run.
Good bye, Thierry; Many of Valeo’s people thank you and wish good success to Valeo’s new leaders.