A changing of the guard is at hand for Carthage-based Fortune 500 company Leggett & Platt. According to documents filed today with the Securities and Exchange Commission, longtime board members Harry Cornell and Felix Wright are retiring. The news release is printed below:
Leggett & Platt’s Board of Directors increased the company’s share repurchase authorization for 2008. Combined with the Board’s standing annual authorization, the company now has latitude to purchase up to 30 million shares (approximately 18%) of its outstanding stock during the calendar year. The Board made no commitment to repurchase shares, but instead gave management the freedom to decide when and how many shares to buy, subject to factors including the company’s availability of cash, the timing of proceeds from anticipated divestitures, the price of Leggett’s stock, and general economic and market considerations.
The Board also announced that Felix E. Wright, Chairman, and Harry M. Cornell, Jr., Chairman Emeritus, have chosen not to seek reelection in 2008. Leggett & Platt’s bylaws allow directors to serve until age 72, unless a waiver is granted. Mssrs. Wright and Cornell have decided not to request such a waiver.
Mr. Cornell, grandson of company co-founder J. P. Leggett, joined the company in 1950. Mr. Wright joined the company in 1959 when he was hired by Mr. Cornell. David S. Haffner, President, CEO, and fellow board member, commented, “Together, Harry and Felix have served Leggett & Platt for 107 years. To a large degree, though they would be reluctant to take the credit, they have been the architects of our company’s success and growth over the last five decades. Their legacy of partnership and teamwork, as both employees and board members, characterizes well the culture of our company. They will be greatly missed.”
In response to Mr. Wright’s decision, the Board’s Nominating Committee recommended, and the full Board anticipates, the election of Richard T. Fisher as independent chair at Leggett’s next quarterly Board meeting. Mr. Wright, chair since 2002, stated, “We are excited to have an individual of Mr. Fisher’s caliber become Leggett’s next chairman. A seasoned board member, Richard has served as our Presiding Director since 2003. He has performed admirably, and we have high expectations of what he will accomplish as he leads our Board of Directors.”
Lastly, the Board of Directors declared a first quarter dividend of $.25 per share, a 47% increase over last year’s first quarter dividend of $.17 per share. The dividend will be paid on April 15, 2008 to shareholders of record on March 14, 2008. Leggett’s dividends have increased annually for 37 consecutive years, at a compound average growth rate of better than 14%. Only one other Fortune 500 company has achieved as long a string of consecutive increases at a 14% growth rate.