Bush Names Kellogg CEO as Commerce Secretary
By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
President Bush today chose Carlos M. Gutierrez, a Cuban-born cereal company executive, to be his new secretary of commerce, beginning an overhaul of his second-term economic team by reaching outside his administration to tap one of the nation's most prominent Latino business leaders.
Gutierrez, 51, chairman and chief executive officer of Kellogg Co., was named to replaced Donald L. Evans, a long-time Bush confidant from Texas who announced his resignation shortly after the president won reelection earlier this month. The nomination is subject to confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
Calling Gutierrez "a great American success story," Bush said in a brief announcement speech at the White House that his nominee "has been an effective visionary executive" who "understands the world of business from the first rung on the ladder to the very top."
Bush said Gutierrez "knows exactly what it takes to help American businesses grow and create jobs" and that he welcomes having his "creativity and expertise" in his Cabinet.
Noting that Gutierrez's family came to the United States when he was a boy, Bush said, "He learned English from a bellhop in a Miami hotel and later became an American citizen." After his family moved to Mexico City, Bush said, Gutierrez began working for Kellogg as a truck driver delivering Frosted Flakes to local stores and began rising through the ranks. "Ten years after he started, he was running the Mexican business," Bush said. "And 15 years after that, he was running the entire company."
Gutierrez said he believes strongly in Bush's economic vision and shares his conviction that the 21st century will be "really and truly the American century."
He told Bush, "I believe passionately in your leadership and direction you've set. I believe in your call for a vibrant, growing, entrepreneurial society where everyone has the opportunity to experience the joy and the pride of ownership, where everyone can contribute and where everyone can benefit."
The two men did not take questions after the announcement.
The choice -- coming after Bush turned to administration insiders to replace departing senior officials such as his attorney general, secretary of state and education secretary -- appeared to signal a move to revitalize his economic team and bring in well-regarded outsiders.
Gutierrez, described in Latino Leaders magazine last December as the only Latino chief executive of a Fortune 500 company, joined Kellogg in Mexico in 1975 as a sales and marketing trainee and worked for the Michigan-based firm in various executive positions over the years in the United States, Mexico, Canada and Australia. He became president and chief operating officer in 1998 and was appointed chief executive officer the following year.
Latino Leaders magazine named Gutierrez as one of the nation's 10 most-admired Latinos last year (others included actress Salma Hayek, singer Julio Iglesias and baseball player Sammy Sosa). A profile in the magazine said Gutierrez was 6 years old when communist guerrillas under Fidel Castro seized control in Cuba, trapping him and his family in Miami where they were on vacation. The family's pineapple exporting business was confiscated and his father had to start over from scratch, the magazine said.
Under Gutierrez's leadership, Kellogg's net sales rose from $6.2 billion in 1999 to $8.8 billion last year, the Associated Press reported. Gutierrez is credited with shaping a major corporate and marketing overhaul at the company, reducing its debt and narrowing its main focus to cereal and wholesome snacks, the agency said.
In 2003, Gutierrez received about $7.4 million in total compensation from Kellogg, including salary and bonuses.