For the past year, former Gov. Ray Mabus has had the opportunity to lead an international company, promote his home state and gain valuable corporate experience.
He’s served as chairman and chief executive officer of Foamex, a producer of polyurethane foam-based products, based in Linwood, Pa. During this time, the company completed reorganization and emerged from chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It also announced a $3-million capital investment for its Tupelo plant.
Mabus joined the board of directors of Foamex in 2000, became chairman in 2004 and last year stepped up to CEO. He was familiar with the company through its Tupelo facility and served on another corporate board with the then-chairman of the Foamex board. The company filed for chapter 11 in 2005.
“I was asked to step in as CEO and president and took it on a limited time basis,” he explains. “I agreed to a limited time and it’s been a great experience to lead Foamex during this time.”
He is proud of the way the company handled the bankruptcy. All creditors were paid, equity was saved and $150 million in new equity was raised.
“It’s a much stronger company now with a better balance sheet,” Mabus said. “Even the bankruptcy judge said he had not seen a company come out as well as this.”
Close to home
Mabus is also pleased with the improvements to the Foamex facility in Tupelo, a plant that has served the area’s furniture industry since 1994. The improvements include consolidating the company’s fabrication and pourline facilities into a one-site state-of-the-art automated operation.
“This investment shows Foamex’s commitment to the furniture industry, Tupelo and Mississippi,” he said. “The plant was already one of our most advanced plants and with the new technology will be one of only four of its kind in the United States.”
The upgrades will allow the Tupelo plant to make numerous types of foam using green technology with few emissions. They will also allow Tupelo to continue serving as an incubator for new technologies in the comfort cushioning area. The transition is expected to occur during the second half of this year.
“Our investments in Tupelo have already begun to bear fruit, as evidenced by the recent launch of Reflex Natural, the newest addition to Foamex’s Reflex product line, which provides the furniture industry a superior alternative to traditional polyurethane, fibers and synthetic fiberfills,” Mabus said. “Reflex is a high-performance, environmentally-friendly flexible polyurethane foam, and our talented employees in Tupelo played a key role in the conception, design and production of this exciting and unique product.
Mabus is completing an eventful year leading Foamex to pull out of bankruptcy and at the same time post record sales and income from operations. He refers to it as a historic year for the company. Last week, he resigned from the company and headed home.
The 58-year-old former governor and U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia affirms that his heart is in Mississippi and that he will always be interested in the state. At this time, he doesn’t know what shape that commitment will take and whether or not he will practice law.
“While it’s been an exciting experience to be CEO for a large company, my future is definitely in Mississippi,” he says. “I live in Ridgeland with my two teenage daughters and they are my No. 1 commitment at this time.”
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.