Kellogg World Alumni Magazine Spring 2005Kellogg School of Management
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Alumni Profile: Ward Klein '79

He keeps going and going...
CEO's 'energized' climb to the top takes dedication and determination

by Nicole Joseph

Even Ward Klein, CEO of Energizer Holdings Inc., does not exactly know where the Energizer Bunny is going, or if it's ever going to stop.

"We're still trying to catch him," Klein says, laughing.

Klein '79 played an integral role in the launch of the Energizer Bunny campaign more than 15 years ago when he served as Energizer's director of marketing for the United States from 1988 to 1990. He says that his team was "struggling with creative strategies," when the idea of the bunny arose, and it has since turned into one of the most recognizable, successful and long-lasting product icons. 

The drum-toting pink rabbit in sunglasses and flip flops is a symbol of the perseverance and durability of Energizer batteries and flashlights --- qualities also shared by the company's CEO himself who has grown with the company through numerous changes over the past 25 years.

"In a way, I've been with the same company for my entire career," Klein says.

This dedication has paid off. He has held a variety of positions with the firm, affording him a wealth of opportunities, such as the chance to explore diverse areas of brand management, initiate a global business unit for the company and live and work in Hong Kong.

Klein graduated from St. Olaf College in 1977 with a bachelor of liberal arts degree, having majored in economics. He immediately enrolled in the Kellogg School, attracted by the school's marketing and brand management program.

When not in the classroom, he worked as a resident assistant and residence hall coordinator for Northwestern Undergraduate Housing to help fund his Kellogg education.

"I was an RA in a fraternity house," he recalls. "That was an unusual experience."

After graduation, Klein began working with the company that would eventually lead him to his current position. He worked in brand management for the cereal and cat food groups at Ralston-Purina, then turned his expertise to doing acquisition work for the firm's specialty foods division. 

"The culture of Purina was a very decentralized, 'push decision-making down' [environment]," Klein says. "I thrived in this culture. There were opportunities there that kept me challenged at all times."

When Purina acquired Eveready in 1986, Klein moved from food to batteries. He has remained there through its switch to Energizer Holdings, and the company's separation from Purina in 2000.

Over the years, Klein has held many leadership roles at the company, including vice president of marketing for the United States from 1992 to1994; area chairman for Latin America in 1996; and COO for the past year until being named CEO in January.

He says this new role presents different challenges and opportunities compared to his previous situations, since he now must extract himself somewhat from day-to-day operations and focus on the corporation as a whole.

One of Klein's fondest memories is of his time spent living and working in Hong Kong from 1998 to 2000, as Energizer's area chairman for Asia, Africa and the Middle East.

"It was a very deep learning experience for me and my family," he says. "We got to appreciate new points of view. The freedom to run a corporation like that was a very positive experience."

Klein credits much of his success to his team-leadership skills, qualities emphasized in the Kellogg School curriculum.

"You must have very good team-building skills, leadership and listening skills, an appreciation for diversity, and tolerance," he says. "And you must be able to motivate people."

He also attributes his success to the fact that he never limited his career goals.

"I never actually knew what I wanted to be when I grew up," he says with a laugh. "I kept my options open. That approach, along with my desire to work with people, has been a good combination."

©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University