Chairman, president, and chief executive officer, Weyerhaeuser Company
Born: October 25, 1942, in Ritzville, Washington.
Education: University of Washington, BS, 1965.
Family: Married Connie Schuler, 1964; children: three.
Career: St. Regis Paper Company, 1965–1970; St. Anne–Nackawic Pulp and Paper, 1970–1972, assistant manager; Willamette Industries, 1972–1995, technical director; 1995–1997, president and chief executive officer; Weyerhaeuser Company, 1997–1999, president and chief executive officer; 1999–, chairman, president, and chief executive officer.
Awards: Global CEO of the Year, Paper/Forest Products Global Outlook Conference, 2002.
Address: Weyerhaeuser Company, 33663 Weyerhaeuser Way South, Federal Way, Washington 98003-9620; http://www.weyerhaeuser.com.
■ Steven R. Rogel, chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Weyerhaeuser Company, stirred up a hornet's nest when he led Weyerhaeuser's hostile takeover bid for Willamette Industries, where he had worked until jumping to the bigger company in 1997. The Willamette takeover pitted Rogel against the smaller company's chairman, who had been his mentor for much of the Rogel's 25 years with Willamette. Although Rogel and Weyerhaeuser ultimately prevailed, it took more than a year to hammer out a deal acceptable to Willamette. In the end, Weyerhaeuser had to raise its bid substantially from the initial offer and Rogel had to endure vitriolic attacks from Willamette's executives and workers.
Rogel's relationship with Willamette chairman William Swindells—that of protégé and mentor during Rogel's 25 years at the Oregon-based forest-products company—had gone sour the day Rogel announced his plans to leave and take a job with its bigger rival, Weyerhaeuser. According to Stanley
Holmes of BusinessWeek , Swindells insisted that Rogel leave the company immediately, and the two had not spoken since. Despite the bitterness he knew the takeover bid would generate among his onetime colleagues at Willamette, Rogel said he was comforted by his certainty that the acquisition would benefit both companies. "I slept well at night," he told Holmes (March 11, 2002). "I was doing the right thing not just for Weyerhaeuser but for good friends at Willamette."
One of America's largest forest-products companies, Weyerhaeuser has fared well under Rogel's leadership. In addition to its expansion through the acquisition of Willamette, the company significantly increased its revenue in the opening years of the new millennium. Total sales climbed from roughly $15.9 billion in 2000 to nearly $20 billion in 2003. The company harvests timber not only in North America but also from such far-flung woodlands as those of Australia, France, Ireland, New Zealand, and Uruguay. Weyerhaeuser produces a wide range of forest products, including solid wood products, pulp and paper, containerboard, and packaging materials. The company's real estate division develops both residential building lots and single-family housing for sale. Asked by PaperAge editor-in-chief Jack O'Brien to summarize his business philosophy, Rogel said, "I believe that people who are successful must have first a good battle plan and then stick with it" (March 2003).
Rogel, born in Ritzville, Washington, on October 25, 1942, grew up in the grain-growing and livestock-raising country of eastern Washington. After finishing high school in Ritzville, he enrolled at the University of Washington in Seattle to study chemical engineering. His interest in the forest-products industry was awakened during a 1964 summer internship at the Tacoma kraft mill of St. Regis Paper Company. Rogel told PaperAge that the experience convinced him of the value of internships. "They bring you into the real world. Even though I was a chemical engineer and had opportunities to enter the chemical and oil industries, I chose forest products" (March 2003).
In 1964, a year before graduating from the University of Washington, Rogel married Connie Schuler, his high school sweetheart. Fresh out of college, Rogel took a job with St. Regis, where he remained until 1970. He next moved to the other side of the continent, taking a job as assistant manager at St. Anne–Nackawic Pulp and Paper in Nackawic, New Brunswick, Canada. Two years later he got an offer to work as a technical director in the Albany, Oregon, facility of Western Kraft, which was soon to become part of Willamette Industries. Thus began a career of about 25 years with Willamette.
Quickly singled out as a promising candidate for a top management position, Rogel moved rapidly up the ladder at Willamette. After holding several management positions at the company's Albany, Oregon, and Campti, Louisiana, mills, he was elected a vice president in 1979. Nine years later he was named executive vice president, and in 1991 he became Willamette's president and chief operating officer. Groomed as a successor to the company's longtime chairman and CEO, William Swindells, Rogel took over as Willamette's CEO on October 1, 1995. Swindells, however, remained as chairman.
Over the next two years, Rogel's leadership of Willamette won plaudits from Wall Street analysts. Less than a year after taking over as CEO, Rogel engineered Willamette's acquisition of nearly 400,000 acres of prime forestland in Oregon's Pacific Coast and Cascade ranges, making the company the biggest private landowner in the state. In an interview with Hal Bernton of the Oregonian (June 25, 1997), Rogel said that his goal for Willamette was to be recognized as "one of the outstanding companies in the industry, not only for financial performance but also for safety, environmental policies, and contributions to local communities." In 1996, Willamette's first full year under Rogel as CEO, the company managed to post net earnings of $192 million on revenue of $3.4 billion despite the impact of soft markets on Willamette's paper and pulp mills.
Rogel maintained Willamette's well-established reputation for strong growth and high rates of return on investment. In the five years that ended December 31, 1996, the company generated an average annual rate of return of 21 percent. According to Morgan Stanley forest-products analyst Matt Berler, quoted in the Oregonian , "Willamette is the premier company in the pulp and paper industry" (June 25, 1997). Berler added that the company had generated "the highest, most consistent returns in the industry and … sustained the fastest growth rate."
Although Rogel said that he was happy at Willamette, which for its part seemed pleased with the job he was doing as CEO, in 1997 he received an offer he felt that he could not refuse. Rogel told O'Brien of PaperAge (March 2003) that he was first approached by Jack Creighton, who was then Weyerhaeuser's president and CEO, and later contacted by George Weyerhaeuser Sr., the company's chairman and great-grandson of its founder. Both told Rogel they wanted to bring changes to Weyerhaeuser and felt that he was the man to do the job. "This presented a challenge I couldn't resist—the professional challenge of my entire career!"
Rogel's decision to leave Willamette for Weyerhaeuser was not at all well received by the former's executives, particularly Swindells, who saw their CEO's defection to a larger rival as a betrayal. Weyerhaeuser, for its part, was delighted that Rogel had been persuaded to join the company as its new president and CEO. Many observers found the hiring a bit surprising, given Weyerhaeuser's previous record of filling its top executive positions from within. However, in announcing the appointment, Creighton made clear that the company had chosen Rogel because "he is a proven leader at the CEO level," according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (November 18, 1997).
Rogel wasted no time in defining his vision of a new, more focused, nimble, and efficient Weyerhaeuser. Within months of coming on as CEO in December 1997, he took steps to rationalize Weyerhaeuser's corporate structure, began using the company's buying power as leverage in its dealings with major suppliers, and put greater emphasis on Weyerhaeuser's core businesses. He also moved quickly to grow the company's holdings, acquiring MacMillan Bloedel, a Canadian forest-products company; TJ International, MacMillan Bloedel's partner in Trus Joist MacMillan; and three Canadian mills owned by Bowater.
The next step in Rogel's long-term strategy for Weyerhaeuser—the acquisition of Willamette—revived and intensified all the ill feelings that had first been generated by his decision to leave more than three years earlier. In what was to be a lengthy war of wills, Rogel fired the opening shot on November 6, 2000, when he offered Willamette's shareholders $48 per share for their stock. In addition, Weyerhaeuser's offer provided for the assumption of roughly $1.7 billion in Willamette debt, bringing the total value of the offer to about $7 billion. Willamette's board quickly rejected the hostile takeover bid, hoping to slam the door on Weyerhaeuser's un-welcome acquisition campaign.
Rogel had no intention of giving up that easily, however. As he told Holmes in BusinessWeek , "I knew [the takeover bid] would be upsetting to them [Willamette management] and come back on me personally" (March 11, 2002). Over the next 14 months or so, the battle got very personal indeed. Willamette executives taped a picture of Rogel to a voodoo doll and stuck pins into it, and thousands of Willamette's workers wore buttons that read "Just Say No Wey." Despite the personal attacks, Rogel continued to press the bid. Weyerhaeuser's offer was steadily sweetened, eventually reaching $55.50 per share, which with the assumption of debt, brought the total price for Willamette to about $7.9 billion. In January 2002 Willamette finally accepted the offer, and in March 2002 the company became a wholly owned subsidiary of Weyerhaeuser.
Although the standoff between Weyerhaeuser and Willamette had been unpleasant, in the end, Rogel told PaperAge , "Willamette people came with the attitude, 'we may not have wanted this, but let's get on with it and make the very best company we can'" (March 2003). To facilitate the integration of his latest acquisition into the Weyerhaeuser corporate structure, Rogel tapped a number of Willamette people from throughout the company for management positions at Weyerhaeuser.
With the Willamette acquisition behind him, Rogel in early 2003 began to focus his energies on making Weyerhaeuser "lean, nimble, quick, opportunistic," according to Official Board Markets (April 19, 2003). He told shareholders that the company must reinvent itself to increase both its efficiency and its profitability. He suggested that short-term priorities might include expansion of Weyerhaeuser's international operations, a critical reassessment of its wood and paper operations, and redoubled effort to control expenses. He told Official Board Markets that company employees had been told: "You're going to find our workplace of the future fulfilling, exciting, and rewarding if you're the kind of person who is customer-focused and results-oriented" (April 19, 2003).
In addition to his responsibilities at Weyerhaeuser, Rogel sat on the boards of various forest-products industry organizations, including the World Forestry Center, Wood Promotion Network, and American Forest & Paper Association. He also served as a director of Kroger Company and Union Pacific Corporation and a trustee of Pacific University. Rogel was vice president of administration for the Western Region of the Boy Scouts of America. In 2001 Rogel was picked as Global CEO of the Year in a survey of forest-products analysts conducted by Pulp & Paper and PPI magazines, and in 2003 he was named Executive Papermaker of the Year by PaperAge magazine.
See also entry on Weyerhaeuser Company in International Directory of Company Histories .
Bernton, Hal, "Rate of Return at Willamette Industries Pleases Wall Street," Oregonian , June 25, 1997.
Erb, George, "Not Lumbering: Weyerhaeuser's Steven Rogel Quickly, Decisively," Puget Sound Business Journal , April 26, 2002.
Holmes, Stanley, "Pulp Friction at Weyerhaeuser," BusinessWeek , March 11, 2002.
"Is a New Weyerhaeuser Here?" Official Board Markets , April 19, 2003.
O'Brien, Jack, "Weyerhaeuser's Steve Rogel: Executive Papermaker of the Year," PaperAge , March 2003.
"Resume: Steven R. Rogel," BusinessWeek , March 11, 2002.
"Rogel Rewrites Weyco Roadmap," Official Board Markets , February 23, 2002.
"Steven Rogel," Marquis Who's Who . New Providence, N.J.: Marquis Who's Who, 2004.
Virgin, Bill, "Weyerhaeuser Goes Outside to Find a CEO; Less Traditional Choice Is the Head of a Smaller Rival," Seattle Post-Intelligencer , November 18, 1997.