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Keegan Speaks! Finally!

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Throughout his Goodyear career – October 2000 to his retirement in April2010 – Bob Keegan did few (if any) sit-down interviews. With any media.Ever. In fact, I believe I am still on the waiting list.

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Usually when media ask to do an interview, tire company execs (well, most of them) jump at the chance, as do their PR handlers (well, most ofthem). Not Bob. And I know that frustrated his PR team quite a bit. Quite a bit.

Imagine my surprise last week, therefore, when Keegan, who is now working for private equity firm Friedman Fleischer & Lowe LLC, popped up as a face-to-face interview subject on the Private Equity BeatBlog of the Wall Street Journal.

According to excepts of the interview published online, Keegan “is applying his experience as an operating partner at the middle-market private equity firm. One of his responsibilities is to serve as chairmanof Transtar Industries Inc., a distributor of automotive aftermarket driveline replacement parts and components, which was acquired by the private equity firm in 2010.”

He was asked a few questions about his Goodyear days, and provides some interesting takes.

So, here are excepts of the excepts of the interview by Sabrina Willmer (who doesn’t work for Tire Review or any tire magazine that I know of, but still got an interview, not that we’re bitter or anything, but…really? We were waiting for years!):

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“Private Equity Beat: How did you transform Goodyear?

“Keegan: At the point when I joined Goodyear we were struggling financially. The obvious decision would have been to cut cost everywhere. We did many of those things but the thing we did more was aspirational. We wanted to be able to drive impactful new products from conception to launch within a year. We started investment to do that in new products when we were at our lowest point financially. That was the cornerstone for driving our future success. We brought a lot of new product directly to the aftermarket. We brought outstanding consumer andproducts goods to an industry that hadn’t had it. That was a big reasonfor the progress at Goodyear.

“PE Beat: What would you have done differently at Goodyear?

“Keegan: At Goodyear, we had to change virtually every corner of business. Did we do it as fast as we could have? No, but we worked collectively. We made a lot of people changes but if I reflected back onthat we could have moved faster.

“PE Beat: Why do leaders fail?

“Keegan: There are two common reasons. First is team. They don’t respectthat business is a team sport. It is football, not golf. A lot of really good talented people remain too focused on themselves. It is all team. The other area is courage. You have to have courage to not talk about what should be done but make decisions and live with the results. Many talented people don’t do that very well."

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