An Empty Chair At Herman Miller

J. Kermit Campbell seemed the ideal person to head Herman Miller, the office-furniture company whose Zen-like approach to employee participation has become required reading for MBA candidates. Only weeks after joining as CEO in 1992, Campbell was penning essays extolling employee risk-taking and stating: "A good manager's final responsibility is to stay out of the way."

Now, two months after becoming chairman, Campbell is out. He resigned unexpectedly on July 11, apparently after overdue attempts to reduce corporate overhead rankled directors. Since May, more than 130 jobs have been eliminated, the company's first downsizing. Herman Miller said Campbell resigned "to pursue other opportunities." Directors, holed up at the company's lodge, were unavailable. Campbell didn't return calls.

The need to cut costs is real. Although Herman Miller has posted big sales gains since 1992, "expenses have exploded," says Tinh Bui, an analyst at shareholder Ariel Capital. In fiscal 1995, profits plunged 89%, to $4.3 million.

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