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  Phil Marineau
Phil Marineau '70

Phil Marineau returns to Kellogg to add — and enjoy — value

by Matt Golosinski

Three decades haven't dimmed Phil Marineau's passion for the Kellogg School.

"Everyone wants to be part of a great team," says the Class of 1970 graduate, whose career highlights include 23 years at Quaker Oats, serving as its president and COO from 1993 to 1996; a stint as president and CEO of Pepsi Cola N.A. from 1997 to 1999; and his role since then as president and CEO of Levi Strauss & Co. "I have always taken great pride in my affiliation with Kellogg. Even 20 years ago, when I was at Quaker, we recruited aggressively at Kellogg."

Throughout his professional life, Marineau has contributed his time, expertise and money to the school to ensure "a better educational experience for current students," one of whom is his son, Philip A., a member of the Class of 2006.

"When I talk with my son about all the academic and social innovations taking place at Kellogg today, I want to go back," quips Marineau.

But in fact he has come back, and given back: Marineau serves on the Kellogg Dean's Advisory Board, has been a keynote speaker during the school's annual Pre-term orientation program and appeared as a guest lecturer in Professor Brian Sternthal's Advertising Strategy course. The Kellogg grad has also hosted many alumni events at Levi Strauss & Co. headquarters in San Francisco and occasionally addresses the Bay Area alumni club.

These efforts speak to Marineau's belief that alumni engagement establishes an important "dialogue" that he says proves valuable to a business school looking to stay ahead of the competition by tapping its graduates' insights. But alumni also benefit.

"I gain a lot from my ongoing relationship with Kellogg," he says. "My discussions with Kellogg professors and students help to keep my skills current. They provide me with viewpoints that allow me to rethink my frame of reference."

His recent visit to Sternthal's classroom, for instance, allowed Marineau to gain "real consumer insights" from the students, while also sharing his best practices from a lifetime of brand management.

Consumer insights have undoubtedly assisted Marineau in strengthening Levi Strauss & Co. following a period of lagging performance when it failed to listen to consumers and upgrade its product lines.

"With the world in such turmoil, my job and my volunteer work keep things in perspective and show me that there is still so much goodness out there. I see incredible things happening at the grassroots level and in organizations with respect to giving back to those less fortunate." Margie Stineman '03, program officer at Arie and Ida Crown Memorial, Chicago  

Macroeconomic factors also pushed competition through the roof: "All the barriers to entry in the jeanswear category were diminished," says Marineau. "In addition, traditional retailers were losing share to vertically integrated stores, such as GAP, and mass-market enterprises, such as Target and Wal-Mart."

As the company's performance began to decline, it became more challenging to service the large debt load the company had taken on prior to Marineau's arrival as CEO.

"We had to change everything and restore the competitive disciplines necessary to grow again," Marineau says, noting that the firm's financial transformation is two-thirds complete.

During this time, the company even contemplated selling off its popular Dockers® brand, but after exploring the possibility with several potential buyers, elected to retain it. "We considered selling it if we could get a price that helped us pay down debt and create shareholder value," says Marineau. "After reviewing the offers we received and reflecting on our improved financial performance in 2004, we chose to keep the business. We weren't going to sell it for less than it's worth. It's a great brand and we believe we will create more value for Levi Strauss & Co. and the Dockers(r) brand by retaining it and driving its continued development ourselves."

Marineau's leadership style is rooted in the Kellogg graduate's leadership principles, which include the mandate "to drive continuous positive change and innovation." Where others might eschew the challenges that Marineau has tackled head on, he has made a real impact on the firm's financial hurdles.

  "One of my job's pleasures is to share my passion for this business with others through local and national presentations. The organization has always given back to the communities we serve by offering many philanthropically supported programs, such as CampCare, a bereavement day camp for children, and other supportive programs that help patients and their families." Dorothy Pitner Healy '86, president and CEO of Palliative CareCenter and Hospice of the North Shore, Evanston, Ill.

"My whole career has been about either creating or building great brands," he says. "The opportunity to revitalize one of the great global brands is exciting. When you're the CEO, you leave a legacy. My goal is to have restored the company's health and leave it with a culture and management that will do even better than I did. That's the thrill of the job."

Marineau's commitment to leaving a legacy at Levi Strauss & Co. seems to mirror his commitment to the Kellogg School.

"I have a deep sense of gratitude to the institution. I learned a lot at Kellogg and it opened up a lot of doors for me," he says, noting that Professor Dick Clewett's course on sales and distribution has provided lifelong insights — including the deceptively straightforward "sell where they shop" — a key strategy that drove the company's decision to launch a new brand, Levi Strauss Signature(tm), in the mass retail channel. The brand has provided the company with significant incremental sales since its July 2003 launch.

"Any relationship that is only one-way doesn't last long," says Marineau. "Kellogg is a place that can continue contributing to who you are and help you achieve your goals. And at the same time, as alumni, we help Kellogg achieve its objectives."

Continue to Wendy Lewis '95

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©2002 Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University