After starring on the tennis team at Northwestern University, Douglas Conant thought of turning pro. But after sizing up the competition, he decided on graduate school. Now, his old skills may come in handy: As the new chief of Campbell Soup, he'll have to serve up a very smart turnaround strategy.
Campbell, which Conant joined on Jan. 8, is troubled. CEO Dale Morrison resigned last March. Although Campbell has 70% of the wet soup market, sales last year slipped 2%, to $6.3 billion. No wonder investors sent the stock price down 37% over the past two years, to $33 1/8 on Jan. 10.
Conant, 49, is used to reviving languishing brands. As president of Nabisco's snack and condiments division since 1995, he increased annual sales by 5% and earnings by 15%. His job at Campbell: "Develop a strategy to maximize shareholder wealth, get a team in place to execute that strategy quickly, and regain investor confidence." He may not have much time to get his backhand in shape.