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CFO Of the Year

CFO Of The Year Awards 2009 Finalists

Jon Held
The Arizona Republic
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

“My continued desire to succeed stems from the satisfaction received from participating in the development of the strategic direction of the company …”

The recession and evolving business models are challenging the newspaper industry in ways it has never experienced. Jon Held is helping to guide Arizona’s largest daily newspaper through these difficult times.

Held plays a critical role in defining the Arizona Republic’s strategic and financial decisions. Working closely with the information technology department, Held strives to ensure that funds are available to acquire and develop software so the company can continue to move forward.

“It takes the collective intelligence of the team, good data analysis, a hard working and dedicated finance staff and a consistent vision shared by our president/publisher to allow me to work effectively within the organization,” he says.

In his capacity as CFO, Held also directs day-to-day management of the Republic’s Spanish-language publications. After analyzing the impact of the economy and tougher immigration laws, Held adjusted the publications’ business plan and editorial focus. He also changed publication days and distribution. Now, the publications are more effectively targeting the Hispanic market, driving up readership and generating better results for advertisers and the Republic.

Held is not averse to seeking different perspectives. For example, Held brought in an outside consulting firm after management tried unsuccessfully to solve an operational issue. He advised that it was both the most effective way to reach a solution and an opportunity to learn. The problem was solved and management said the exercise helped them work better as a team.

Tod Holmes
Republic Services Inc.
Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

“I see an important part of my position is to challenge ‘conventional wisdom,’ and to challenge the CEO to ensure that we examine all sides of an issue as we move forward.”

Republic Services successfully completed the largest acquisition in its history during the 2008 stock market turmoil and credit-market meltdown. The company gives Tod Holmes high marks for helping to bring it through those challenging times.

Last year, Republic purchased Allied Waste Industries to form the second-largest non-hazardous solid waste services company in the nation. The transaction closed on time and with the original terms. The deal is considered Holmes’ signature achievement during his tenure as Republic’s vice president and chief financial officer. Initially expecting to realize $150 million in cost savings by year-end 2010 because of the all-stock transaction’s structure, Republic reached the $115 million mark during the first half of 2009. It has bumped expected savings to between $165 million and $175 million by the end of next year.

Holmes also successfully retained Republic’s investment-grade credit rating. He acknowledges that the mega merger involved many talented people. “I’m lucky that I have great people in the key positions that report to me,” Holmes says. “The business has done well because of the actions of a lot of people.”

Following a personal vision of patience and discipline, Holmes has helped Republic adjust to the recession. During the first two quarters of 2009, earnings remained strong, cash flow was ahead of targets, and profit margins expanded. Republic currently has the highest margin performance among large waste companies. Its EBITDA margins have increased more than 200 percent in the past year.

Todd Laporte
Scottsdale Healthcare
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

“I have now served health care clients/organizations for over 25 years, and still love the work and the results.”

While some hospitals are retrenching in the midst of a recession, Scottsdale Healthcare (SHC) is investing in its operations and expanding its reach, thanks to the financial leadership of Todd LaPorte. As senior vice president and chief financial officer at SHC, LaPorte is described as a “superstar” at his job.

In the two-and-a-half years he has been at SHC, LaPorte has improved the balance sheet and operating results to the point that the health care organization has the financial wherewithal to make substantial investments in facilities and technology. In spite of the recession’s headwinds and the prospect of congressional health care reform, SHC is well positioned to grow its patient base beyond its traditional service area.

In spring 2008, SHC faced a critical juncture as the national credit market unraveled. Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, LaPorte refinanced several bonds, saving millions of dollars. His action also led to a dramatic turnaround in the balance sheet and a stronger bond rating for SHC.

In addition to his financial acumen, LaPorte has a knack for working with and understanding input from such varied sources as hospital staff, executives, board members, legal counsel, external auditors and investment houses. This has resulted in the creation of challenging, yet realistic, goals for SHC’s financial performance.

“I also try to bring a perspective into decision-making and prioritization of resources that views our mission as being under a long-term horizon and not as a concession for a narrow, short-term goal,” LaPorte says.

David Lutich
Laboratory Services of Arizona/Sonora Quest Laboratories
Chief Financial Officer

“Working within this culture has given me the opportunity to provide leadership in otherwise non-traditional methods for a CFO.”

In finance, numbers rule and David Lutich has racked up impressive statistics in his five years as chief financial officer for Laboratory Sciences of Arizona (LSA) and Sonora Quest Laboratories (SQL) in Tempe.

The two labs, the largest integrated laboratory network in the nation, provide medical diagnostic testing and reporting for thousands of health care clients in Arizona. Under Lutich’s watch, SQL’s volume, revenue growth and profitability are among the best nationally in the laboratory industry. In 2008, when Arizona’s recession gathered momentum, SQL reported double-digit growth in volume, revenue and operating margin over 2007. Contributing to this success is Lutich’s commitment to Six Sigma business management strategies. The Six Sigma investment has paid off handsomely. In 2007, the program generated nearly $4 million in savings at SQL, a return on investment of 6 to 1. That was followed in 2008 by $4.2 million in savings, an 8-to-1 ROI.

“As part of the LSA/SQL management team, I have learned that success can be accomplished by emphasis on core values, company vision and mission, and a focus on key critical success factors, all of which comprise our annual strategic roadmap,” Lutich says. SQL received the 2005 Arizona Governor’s Award for Quality, the only health care company in the state to earn this recognition. SQL is one of the top laboratories nationally in customer satisfaction. Also, both labs have superior financial performance when benchmarked against the best-performing organizations in health care.