Meyer Says Acxiom's Core Business Sound

by Jamie Walden  on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2008 1:53 pm  

John Meyer doesn't officially take over as CEO of Acxiom Corp. of Little Rock until Feb. 4, but he's already got his work cut out for him.

John Meyer doesn't officially take over as CEO of Acxiom Corp. of Little Rock until Feb. 4, but he's already got his work cut out for him.

In fact, the former president of Alcatel-Lucent's global services group already has a business meeting to attend Thursday.

His predecessor, Charles Morgan, marked his 36th anniversary with the data services firm on the same day as Acxiom announced Meyer as its new CEO. At a news conference at the company's River Market headquarters, Morgan said he was ready to get Meyer in a "critical business meeting" later that day.

"It's something that I was planning on doing, but I want to put him on point on it because I think he could - he might be able to do this one better than I can," Morgan said.

(Click here to see video of the news conference.)

Morgan said Meyer, 51, was "by far the winner" of all the CEO candidates Acxiom reviewed. Morgan would not name other candidates, but said Acxiom's board "graded and ranked" all prospective hires and that Meyer stood tall among them.

Meyer said Thursday that for the first month and a half, he intends to simply get a good feel for the company, "and then start making some decisions."

Charting a Course

It's likely some decisions will come sooner than others. While Meyer said he wouldn't characterize Acxiom as being in a tailspin, he said the company has been challenged by outside forces that have caused distractions.

Among those challenges was Acxiom's aborted $3 billion plan to sell out and go private. Morgan has recently pointed to nationwide credit crisis, which he said has hurt Acxiom's financial services clients and was the biggest factor in preventing the sellout from going through.

On Thursday, Meyer said Acxiom's core business is doing well. He said he hopes the company will move past distractions and focus on growth and new opportunities for its customers.

Meyer also said that there has been no decisions made on Acxiom's workforce. The firm laid off 266 employees in August. The company has a history of conducting layoffs in times of financial stress.

"There's been no decisions made on [layoffs]," Meyer said. "I'd say do a good job, satisfy the customer, stay as close to making the customer happy and growing the relationship with them, and your future's secure."

Meyer said the company will keep the president/CEO role separate from the chairman of the board. He said Michael Durham will remain chairman.


Acxiom detailed Meyer's compensation plan in an 8K document filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday.

According to the filing, Meyer's contract runs to May 16, 2011, and is renewable by one-year terms. His initial base salary is $700,000 per year. And he is eligible to receive a target cash bonus equal to 100 percent of his salary and a maximum cash bonus of up to 200 percent during each contract year, according to the 8-K.

Meyer, who said he has not invested in Acxiom in the past, will receive nonqualified stock options of 465,000 shares of the company's common stock and 115,000 shares of restricted stock units.

Meyer also received a $700,000 signing payment. A Dallas resident, he will also receive a $5,000 per month "relocation allowance" until he establishes residence in Little Rock, which he is required to do within six months.

Meyer said he wants to be in Little Rock to be close to Acxiom operations and employees.

"I believe you need to be as close to the employees as you can because that's where things happen and that's where we generate value," he said.


Asked whether Acxiom needs an overhaul or just a little tweaking, Meyer said, "I think it's going to be more of an evolution."

Later, Meyer mentioned that he had turnaround experience. He said that when he started at EDS, the company was in "a bit of turmoil."

"We had lost five of the seven leaders, regional leaders," he said. "I went into the environment where I had to do that, hire new people."

Meyer said he helped grow EDS revenue in its European, Middle Eastern and African markets from $3.6 billion to $7.2 billion in four years.

"We were pretty successful, I'll take credit for the fourth quarter results," he said.

"Let's hope that's indicative of what we can do over here."



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