Ciao, Dog Chow?Greg Burns
William Stiritz has a knack for surprises, but his latest is a doozy. On May 23, Stiritz, 62, said he would give up his CEO duties at Ralston Purina years before outsiders expected. Effective Oct. 1, he's dividing the job between pet-food boss Patrick Mc-Ginnis, 49, and Eveready battery kingpin Patrick Mulcahy, 53.
The move rekindled rumors that Ralston would split in two, sending the stock up 3.5%, to 85 3/4, that day. Stiritz has long been a spin-off fan: In 16 years as CEO, he has unloaded everything from tuna boats to fast-food chains. Ralston's international farm-animal feed unit is slated to be spun off next year, and its international soy-protein unit could go soon, too.
Though Stiritz stressed on May 27 that pet foods and batteries will stay together, some analysts still believe that his decision to name co-CEOs signals a breakup. "It's not a question of whether, but when," says Prudential Securities' John McMillin.